“Is that all you have to offer?”
Some years ago one warm summer morning a man showed up at the parsonage of the Historic Coleman Chapel. I was the pastor and the man claimed to be hungry and without resources to care for himself.
He claimed that he was looking for something to eat. He was actually looking for a monetary handout! From time to time people would show-up out of nowhere looking for something. Sometimes it was food, sometimes for a cash handout, sometimes for their overdue electric bill, a gas card, a room for the night, you name it.
There were times when the need and request were legitimate. There were times when the request was bogus and born out of pure scam. When the request was of a scam nature you could feel it in your bones. On that particular summer day the man in my story was invited to have a seat in my office while we prepared to take care of his need. He was offered breakfast. As I recall, he ate our food, drank our coffee and when he was finished, he handed me his plate saying;
“Is that all there is?”
How would you have reacted to that response?
Throughout the years at the chapel I encountered some good folks AND many ungrateful and selfish people. Selfish people with their own agenda. Almost always, the folks with a lack of respect and gratitude had an attitude and a developed sense of entitlement. I found that fact to be true almost universally. It wasn’t just drifters, the emotionally disturbed or folks down on their luck who exhibited bad manners and rude behaviors. There were church members, attendees and co-team members who were equally possessed with a sense of entitlement and an ungrateful spirit. The motivation was often greed, selfishness, control and inner spiritual conflict.
What do you do when it’s more about entitlement than gratitude?
Narcissism is the term used in psychology to describe a preoccupation with self. It is a Greek term taken from the name of the mythological Narcissus, who fell in love with his own image and was doomed to die because he would not turn away from it. A narcissist is a person who displays a high level of selfishness, vanity, and pride. He sees everything from a “how does this affect me?” perspective. Empathy is impossible for the narcissist because his only perspective is the one centered on self. In psychology, narcissism is seen as a broad spectrum of conditions ranging from normal to pathological.
The Bible says that we are born sinful since the fall (Romans 5:12). This means that we are born with only sinful tendencies and no ability to be “good” or righteous on our own. What we call “human nature” the Bible calls “the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21). Part of our sin nature is a total focus on self. This focus, also called “egocentrism,” is how babies see and experience the world. Narcissism is like egocentrism in that the adult still relates to the world like an infant, a perspective that impedes personal growth and relationships.
Psychological theories about narcissism suggest that the narcissistic person uses defense mechanisms to idealize self so that he does not have to face his own mistakes (sin) or flaws (fallen state). The diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder outlines the behavior patterns of a narcissistic person as being haughty, non-empathetic, manipulative, and envious; he also possesses a sense of entitlement and grandiosity. From a biblical perspective, it is clear that these heart conditions are due to pride, which is sin (Proverbs 16:18). The Bible tells us to “look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). The narcissist routinely disobeys this command.
Pride is a reason people do not feel they need a savior or forgiveness. Pride tells them they are “good” people or have a “good” heart. Pride also blinds people to their own personal responsibility and accountability for sin. Narcissism (pride) masks sin, whereas the gospel reveals the truth that leads to remorse for sin. Narcissistic traits can be dangerous because, at their worst, they will lead a person to destroy others to satisfy the lust of the flesh (2 Timothy 3:2-8).
Thankfulness is a prominent Bible theme. First Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Did you catch that? Give thanks in all circumstances. Thankfulness should be a way of life for us, naturally flowing from our hearts and mouths.
Digging into the Scriptures a little more deeply, we understand why we should be thankful and also how to have gratitude in different circumstances.
Psalm 136:1 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” Here we have two reasons to be thankful: God’s constant goodness and His steadfast love. When we recognize the nature of our depravity and understand that, apart from God, there is only death (John 10:10; Romans 7:5), our natural response is to be grateful for the life He gives.
Psalm 30 gives praise to God for His deliverance. David writes, “I will exalt you, O Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. O Lord, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit. . . . You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever” (Psalm 30:1-12). Here David gives thanks to God following an obviously difficult circumstance. This psalm of thanksgiving not only praises God in the moment but remembers God’s past faithfulness. It is a statement of God’s character, which is so wonderful that praise is the only appropriate response.
There is a vast difference between a me-me-me philosophy and gratitude! I don’t think that any of us have a problem with helping people with real and legitimate needs and have been disenfranchised by the cruelties of life. Yes, we do have an obligation to honor God and serve Jesus Christ! Quite frankly as our society continues to spiral toward oblivion we are going to see more needs presented and more cases of the legitimate cry for help versus the scam and ingratitude perpetrated by people that we would least expect it from. WE live in a broken society! WE do need to feed the hungry, we do need to befriend and do whatever we can to promote hope and healing to the brokenhearted. We do need to be salt and light to this society of abusers and sinful souls. It’s what Jesus did. How was Jesus rewarded for His love and kindness? Rejection and a cross. Do you remember those incidents of how Jesus was treated after healing the blind, dumb and demonic? He was often treated badly and with a lack of respect! Remember the ten lepers he healed? How many were grateful enough to respond with thanksgiving and a humble heart? One man came back to thank Jesus in that incident?
You know come to think about it, there are still plenty of people who never hear anything except what they want to hear and when they speak it’s only words meant to divide and cause chaos, division and derision.
We are still called to be a people of God and practice Micah 6:8. WE are to do good, to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. That means we will strive to do the right thing. Let the spirit of God be our guide today and always.
Speaking about ingratitude did I ever tell you the story of the couple who came to the Chapel wanting to renew their wedding vows to help them get their marriage on track? Yeah, that didn’t go so well. They divorced! But, that’s another story.
Learn more at RUSS HOBBS MINISTRIES on Facebook! For more information e-mail me. Have a great day! Plan to join me for the next SOUL PASSION gathering. Learn more on this website, click on Russ Hobbs, Stories That Inspire.
Russ Hobbs is a pastor, professor, counselor, storyteller, author and broadcaster with nearly half of a century in assisting churches and ministries to improve their programs and outreach.