I have watched with interest how the term “entitlements” is bandied about in our modern culture. Most often, it is used in political parlance and seems to mean “getting something for nothing” or “something offered to people in the past that we can’t afford today.” But that is not what the word entitlement means. An entitlement is a guarantee of access to benefits established by rights or legislation. Usually, these entitlements are offered to people who have worked for them (such as social security or pensions). Other times, we, as Americans simply believe all citizens have certain rights. “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” We go on in the Constitution to state that we believe all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That’s a pretty strong list of entitlements.
As Christians, we believe people are entitled to even more. We believe in visiting the prisoner, clothing the naked, and turning the other cheek. We believe people are entitled to love. We believe even our enemies should be shown our concern.
The resistance to entitlements, I believe, comes from a sense that some people think they should get something for nothing. Some people seem to want to live off of the work of others. God does not promote sloth and dependency. And when we run into such cases, we should be on guard against it and give some folks a hefty push to make them appreciate the work that God gives them (yes that is in the Bible too).
But the default position of assuming folks are out to bilk the system, that the most important thing for us to do is to safeguard our money, and that most of the people in want are just shiftless and lazy is un-Christian (and I believe un-American as well).
Even worse is any sense that “we cannot afford” to give people what we have promised them and they simply have to “deal with it” shows a remarkable lack of integrity. Just remember, if we break promises made to previous generations that came before us, why do we think the promises made to us today are worth anything?
Entitlements is not a bad word. Laziness is. Sloth is. But entitlements are not.
Let us remember we are a people politically and religiously that believe people are entitled to certain things by birth and later by work.
Let us honor that good part of our culture.
Until next time,