FIRST-PERSON: Confronting entitlement
BARRE, Vt. (BP)--The other day I was hanging out with a friend of mine. This person is a young adult and quite talented in a lot of areas, but does not get a lot of support from immediate family. My friend only has a part-time job and a number of Christians in my circle of friends have been helping this individual stay afloat financially.
Helping people in need is part of what it means to be a Christian, but this has been going on for nearly two years and some people have begun to feel taken advantage of. As we were hanging out, I mentioned that it was time for my friend to find additional employment in order to provide for personal financial needs. My friend's answer amazed me. I was told that additional employment was not needed because the part-time job was enough. After all, it was important to have time to hang out with friends and do fun stuff.
I was somewhat flabbergasted by this response. After a moment of fumbling around verbally, I finally worked up the courage to point out that it was only working with a part time job because other people were helping out. I went on to point out that all those people who were helping worked full-time jobs themselves and some of them even worked two jobs. I asked how long other people should work extra hours at their own jobs in order to help out a person who only worked a part-time job. There was no answer.
As the conversation continued, it became increasingly awkward. It was obvious that my friend felt entitled to receive help from others even though there was so much more my friend could do to make the situation better. The fact that my friend is a healthy able-bodied young adult quite capable of working more hours apparently had never occurred to my friend. My friend had gotten used to other people meeting the need and somehow imagined that they would keep doing it indefinitely. I tried to be gentle as I attempted to help my friend understand that people had grown weary of helping when my friend was capable of doing more personally. I am still not sure my friend really grasped the responsibility each adult has to provide for oneself.
This experience reminded me of what Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, "For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: If a man will not work, he shall not eat." I wondered if this Christian young adult had somehow missed that verse. This experience also reminded me of the truth of Galatians 6:5, "For each one should carry his own load." Both of these verses teach that ultimately each individual should be doing their best to make their own way in life.
We all go through hard times and need help in those moments. But there is a difference between going through a short term crisis in which we need help and just expecting others to pay our way through life so we can hang out with our friends. This sense of entitlement is not healthy, nor is it biblical. Churches that want to help young adults discover a vibrant faith must find the courage to talk about these kind of issues openly, lovingly and firmly. Lord, give us courage to speak the truth in love.
Terry Dorsett is director of the Green Mountain Baptist Association. For information, visit VermontBaptist.org.