Have you ever noticed how many commercials tell us that we deserve to have things? We deserve a new car, a new phone, a certain type of meal or food, a better job, a vacation…the list goes on and on.

And it is not only media that highly promotes this entitlement mentality. Sadly, entitlement has crept into the church–pastors who need to be admired and demand special treatment, church goers who feel their way of doing things is correct. Entitlement has invaded all parts of American culture and it’s time to rid ourselves of this unhealthy mentality.

Entitlement involves the belief that we deserve privileges or special treatment, or that we have a right to something. It’s thinking that… I deserve, I’m owed, I should have. And we encounter this attitude every day–the person who cuts in line at the coffee shop, the woman with a cart full of groceries who gets in the express check-out line, the man who loudly demands he get the best seat in the restaurant.

Entitlement is dangerous in all relationships because it is self-centered and self-promoting. In addition, entitled people lack empathy for others because people must cater to their needs. It’s all about them and their specialness. This self-focus easily leads to hurt and disrespect, and it certainly doesn’t promote intimacy. And if you stand up to entitlement, the entitled person becomes angry and resentful. After all, they deserve your respect and admiration.

To deal with entitlement, the first thing is to recognize that this attitude and accompanying behavior are the opposite to how Jesus taught us to live. We are entitled to nothing! We are incredibly blessed, but we do not deserve anything. God loves us and as a good Father gives us good things, but not because we are so deserving and have earned His affection. Effort, status and money don’t give us priority to God’s blessings.

At the root, entitlement is a heart issue. To stop it, we must purposely choose humility and understand God’s grace. Grace is God’s unmerited favor, meaning we don’t earn it. The Psalmist David knew this when he said, “the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). The Good Shepherd provided everything he needed in his position as a sheep.

Jesus is our ultimate model when it comes to positioning ourselves before God. He chose to humble himself and come to earth as a man. He was shamed, tortured, and punished for us and deserved none of this treatment. Yet, he willingly chose to humbly himself on a cross for our eternal good. The Message says it this way (Philippians 2: 7-8).

 When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!  Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death — and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.

For that sacrifice, we should all feel tremendous gratitude. Gratitude is the antidote to entitlement. A grateful heart melts away entitlement. So, focus on what you have and what you have been given. Scripture tells us that every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father (James 1:17).

To combat entitlement, practice gratitude every day. Recognize how blessed you are in what God has given you. Then serve others with your gifts and talents. Serving softens your heart and keeps entitlement at bay.