After All My Hard Work

“The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’” (Luke 15:10, NLT).

Nothing fuels a bad attitude like a disappointed sense of entitlement–and the worst kind of entitlement is the kind you’ve “worked hard” for. Add fatigue and stress to disappointment and resentment, and get a major explosion seeking an excuse to happen. If we can’t find a specific “prodigal” or responsible party to direct our anger at, any person who has the nerve to speak to us will do; and if no human target is available, we can always kick the car, shake a fist at the rain, or even mentally tell God a thing or two or three about how we slaved to get things right and He evidently couldn’t care less.

We’re all born with some sense of entitlement, but it tends to mature with the person. As tiny tots, we perceive that our felt needs are satisfied on command, and we take it as our due–and become hysterical at delays. A bit older, we learn that doing “a good job” brings praise and reward–and break into storms of our own when an outing that was promised is rained out. As we near physical maturity, we learn that just “doing good” isn’t enough; we have to do better than others–and we sulk when someone else takes home the “Best Player” award. Finally, as full adults, we’re faced with the reality that sometimes nothing we can do will guarantee what we want when we want it–that, in fact, “working harder” often seems to attract more hard work and nothing else. And we either revert to tantrums and sulking, or ruin our health with inward resentment, or both.

Precious few of us ever achieve the final stage of maturity–growing beyond entitlement and not only accepting that God knows best, but maintaining an attitude of spiritual joy even when everything we’ve worked for seems to crumble. Ironically enough, those who do achieve this stage may do it at any physical age and in the wake of any past record. Paul the scholar and high-achieving Jew and Christian came to realize God owed him nothing, but so did the “tax collectors and prostitutes” who responded eagerly to Jesus. The teenage prodigal and the fifty-plus CEO are equally capable of admitting, “I was a fool to think I could find some way to take full control of my world.” In anyone, it comes down to being willing to let God be in charge–even when we feel He’s disappointed us, even when we don’t feel like accepting what we can’t change.

Trying to “earn” the right to a “good” life is dangerous because it blinds us to how serious our imperfections really are. Ultimately, the hardworking brother is in worse shape than the prodigal for preferring congratulations to grace–he completely misses out on the greater joy of the latter.

Perhaps that’s one reason Jesus said we must become as little children. Whatever their faults, no one under school age feels adequately powerful to personally force time, traffic, and television to do as they want.

Advertisements
Previous Post
Leave a comment

1 Comment

  1. Jo Swank

     /  May 9, 2016

    Amen again, Kathy! Thank you for deriving beautiful insights from the Word.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: