The holidays are a great time to look at the topic of entitlement. More specifically, to ask ourselves the question, "How do our holiday traditions and activities encourage or discourage entitlement?"
In 2013 I read the book, Advent Conspiracy by Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder. I must have looked funny, sitting in the NICU in Utah, reading a book about Advent and Christmas in the summer but I did. It had been on my pile for a while but I didn't have time to read it until I found myself with plenty of uninterrupted time between diaper changes and limited baby holding. I decided that summer is the best time to read it so that you can plan ahead for your family's Christmas. If you wait until the Christmas season, you'll probably fall into all of the same traps and find yourself too busy to read the book. It's also best reviewed yearly. You'll forget. I promise.
The book has 4 tenets: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All. Pursuing each of these will not only change your family's focus during the Christmas season, it will be freeing as well. But shouldn't we be living those four values every day of every year? In that light, Easter seems like another good time to focus on those four. Take a look at how your family celebrates Easter. Is it all about the bunny and the eggs and the basket? There's nothing wrong with that side of Easter as long as it has its rightful place behind the true meaning of Easter. And there's nothing wrong with giving our children gifts in baskets and eggs as long as we think about what we're giving, how much we're giving, and why.
Do our children really know what we're celebrating? Do we?
It's not surprising that since our Lenten devotional is written by one of the authors of Advent Conspiracy (Seay) that many of the same themes come through. On Day 5 of Lent, Seay talks about entitlement and suggests that increasing our gratitude is one way to cure us. "If entitlement is like a disease to a healthy spiritual life, then gratitude is the proven vaccine. What lengths are you willing to go to in order to integrate a grateful spirit into everything that you do?" (Seay, 71) And, I would add, how can we teach our children to have a spirit of gratitude so that they can go against the tide of entitlement?
For our family, we've found that the more we share with others, either in our home or out, the less entitled we become. We have less to spend on ourselves, first of all, but more importantly, we find the joy of giving far exceeds the act of getting.
As Christian parents, let's agree to use this Easter season to purposefully share the true meaning of Easter with our children. Let's promise to re-think what goes into their baskets and eggs, if we do Easter baskets. Do they really need another stuffed animal, just because we've included one every year before? Is it really necessary to purchase a cart full of Dollar Store items that will break before the day is over just to have an overflowing basket? And how we might be able to share our abundance with others? Could we purchase two of everything we're giving to our children and put them in a basket for a child in need? Could we take our children shopping for a family that could use some encouragement? How fun it would be to anonymously drop off a box or basket of food and clothing to bless that family. And let's agree that this is just the beginning. To counter entitlement, we need to be grateful and giving.