Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Tuesday, 10 March 2009


By Jim Jordal

One harmful attitude that will hopefully be modified by the current recession is the sense of entitlement pervading American culture from top Wall Street financial institutions down to homeless shelters and soup kitchens. That the world owes us a living at the expense of others no matter what our behavior is a perspective cultivated by the financial largesse and permissiveness of the past several generations. It is also a serious misreading of the Holy Writings of most major religions. This perverted belief extends to unlimited access, not only to income, but also to all the baubles created by an advertising-driven consumer society gone mad. It reaches into every facet of American life as it persuades us that freedom is license, our body is our own, and our sources of pleasure are exclusively our business. In its worst form it subordinates the physical creation and all its creatures to the insatiable demands of rampant debt-driven consumerism, pleasure seeking without responsibility, and global empire building. Any nation desperate enough to resist this global hegemony immediately faces the application of massive economic power or even military force against it.

We all know of the egregious culture of entitlement surrounding Wall Street investment bankers and hedge fund operators; with the multi-million dollar salaries supplemented by bonuses, stock options, favorable tax treatment and, at the end, golden parachutes and lifetime consulting fees. That this is harmful to all Americans is almost beyond question, and needs to be brought to a screeching halt.

But forget Wall Street for a moment. What about the sense of entitlement pervading the remainder of our culture? I’m speaking of things like our national sense of being entitled to freedom without having to fight or work for it. Or of the oft-heard assertion that "It’s my body, I can do what I want to it," or "It’s my property, I can destroy if I want," or "It’s my money, I can spend it as I choose." The general error is the mistaken belief that we’re alone and can behave in any way we want because it’s our right. And seldom do we hear anyone say: "It’s not your right to do what you please because the rest of us will have to pay to pick up the pieces after you ruin your life."

So is there any remedy for all this? Is there any source of balance available? Or will the American economy and its culture decline, as some are now warning, to that of a second-rate country?

As I’ve said before and will continue to say, yes, there is a way out, but it doesn’t consist in doing more of the same behaviors that got us in trouble in the first place. God’s righteousness (right relationships) as found in the principles of biblical Jubilee points a way to recover from our malaise, but of course we’re too sophisticated to accept this.

The principles found in biblical Jubilee (Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy. 15) reveal God’s will that all people (and animals) share justly (not equally) in His temporal gifts. But rather than generating a sense of entitlement, God’s provision should encourage responsible participation in the earth’s economy and pleasures through thankful and meaningful labor as we share with and serve one another. Jubilee is the antidote to consumerism and other forms of irresponsible behavior that are the opposite of righteousness because they break right relationship in favor of selfish individuality.

In any culture a pervasive sense of entitlement held by large numbers of citizens damages the connective tissue holding society together. A plutocracy of wealth and privilege having little or no concern for the remainder of society creates a class system based on wealth and power, with laws made by legislative bodies responsible mainly to the special interest groups paying their campaign expenses and hiring them for lucrative consulting jobs upon retirement.

True meaning in life comes from sharing and serving. As we move along this path of love and justice we begin to develop right relationships with God, other people, and nature. Unfortunately, the virtues of sharing and serving seem lost in today’s search for individual pleasure through the amassing of ever-increasing wealth and possessions. But these values can and will return. Hopefully, that will be one positive outcome of the current recession.