4 Ways to Break Free from the Poison of an Entitlement Mentality

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Merriam Webster dictionary says that entitlement is the belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges.

No.  This is not a political post.  No, I’m not going to point my finger at government programs that foster an entitlement attitude.

No.  This is not a parenting post.  No, I’m not going to point my finger at kids and talk about how they have developed an entitlement attitude.

I’m going to look at the entitlement mentality of middle-class adult Americans.

I have an old fashioned belief about money that guides my finances – you can only buy what you can afford.  I also take this a step further and believe that I might not have a Christian right to spend money on things just because I can afford it.  Managing finances is a spiritual act, not a physical one.  The statement about buying only what you can afford is old fashioned because most don’t buy according to that principle.

The ancient buy-what-you-can-afford principle has been replaced by a new fangled idea – buy what you deserve.

I was once on the phone with a woman who was trying to live within her means (at least that is what she said).  I suggested the idea of cutting phone expenses.  That was not possible because they needed the phones.  I suggested cutting grocery expenses.  That was not possible because it was important that she buy the more expensive items.

Can you see what principle of finances she followed?  Buy what you deserve.

There are many young people who get married and immediately want to be in a home the size of their parents’ home.  After all, they think, don’t we deserve to have the house of our dreams?  We buy cars before we can afford them.  We buy homes before we can afford them.  We buy vacations before we can afford them.

People don’t buy what they can afford, but the buy only what they believe they deserve.

This is entitlement.

It’s hurting us.  It’s hurting those God wants us to bless.  It is hurting the Kingdom of God.

How to Break Free from the Entitlement Spell Gripping our Nation

1.  Exercise the power of NO.

Breaking the entitlement spell means self-denial.  It means self sacrifice.  It means saying no to the things you cannot afford.

Living below your means is not an act of fate.  Living below your means is not a privilege of the wealthy.  Living below your means is only achievable to those who are willing to say no.  No, I can’t afford that.  No, I can’t buy that.  No, I don’t have the money to spend.

Our finances are limited, and so we must exercise an appropriate use of the word NO.

2.  Teach yourself before trying to teach your children.

I don’t like saying no to the things I want.  However, I believe that our children learn more from watching what we do than they learn from hearing what we say.  My wife and I often use phrases like, “It’s too expensive …” and “We can’t afford that ….” even when discussing things we want.

If our kids have seen us deny our own desires, then they learn that principle.

3.  Budget and commit to living on less than you earn.

Why not just make a rule – we won’t spend more than we make.  We will only buy what we can afford.  Then make it work.  The best way to spend only what you can afford is to make a budget and stick to it with absolute allegiance.  Once you’ve made this commitment, simply adjust all your spending to that one foundational agreement.

4.  Occasionally don’t buy something even if you can afford it.

I’m not even sure that I should spend everything that I can afford on myself.  I think the Christian call and Christian standard is higher.  Sometimes I need to forgo buying something – even if I can afford it.

Gal. 5:13 encourages us not to use our freedom for self-indulgence.  Our goal is not merely to stop buying things we can’t afford, but also to stop buying thing we don’t need.  Deny yourself something you can afford and something you want to buy.  Give that money instead as a testimony to yourself that you can choose to pass over things you can afford.  Self-denial is a great countermeasure to entitlement.

What do you do to try and break free from the entitlement spell gripping our nation?




  1. says

    I think more saving needs to be encouraged, and not just saving for something that you can go spend all the money on, but saving to have a cushion and a foundation of wealth.

    • says

      Savings is a way to break free from entitlement because your learning to live without something. The delayed gratification does help foster that sense of self-control. Thanks.

  2. JD says

    In the past we made financial decisions (purchases) too hasty. Now when we consider purchasing goods for our home, yard, etc. we take our time…a long time. There is a saying and I am paraphrasing it but it goes somewhat like this, the big disappointment in life is not getting what you want. The next big disappointment of life is getting what you thought you wanted.

    • says

      I once heard a preacher remind us that the worst thing God could ever do for us is to give us everything we ask for. I think that’s true. Sometimes we’re not even smart enough to know what we should ask of God. Thanks for helping highlight those points.

  3. Harold says

    I generally agree with the points you make in this post as well as your other posts. I do take exception to your second point in this post. We also once used terms like “we can’t afford…” to explain why we were not purchasing something. At times that may have been an accurate statement. However, it gives our children a false sense of poverty when we are not poor and that is not an accurate impression to give our children. We have determined it is more honest to let our children know we have sufficient income to be able to make choices and we are choosing whether or not to purchase various items or experiences because of our priorities. I think this approach is a better means of teaching our children that they are responsible to make wise choices as well. It also allows an honest discussion about wants and needs and living below our means in order to be generous.

    • says

      Thanks so much for the comment. I think you bring up a great point about the phrase ‘we can’t afford’. If we can afford something we shouldn’t say that phrase to the kids. If we actually can’t afford it then I have not problem using the phrase. Instead, it’s probably better to replace that phrase with “we’re choosing not to spend our money in that way”.

  4. Arno says

    I can say NO to buy things for myself, but I find it really hard to say NO to buy things for my 2 year old daughter. I am scared she cannot live to hear full potential if I don’t buy her educational toys, sport equipment, ipad etc..

    • Harold says

      Young children are surprisingly adaptable. They have a great amount of potential. That potential is not dependent on them having the latest electronics or being involved in the latest activity. I am becoming more and more convinced that teaching our children delayed gratification will stand them in greater stead than providing them all the latest stuff or experiences. Many of the problems in western civilization can be traced to a population that has not learned how to wait, but thinks they need to borrow from the future to have everything now.
      Strong relationships are more important. Our children will be further ahead knowing they live in a safe family environment where they are loved and their parents are there for them. Introducing them to a relationship with Jesus early in life is also of far greater value than things.

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