Kennedy: Breaking the habit of entitlement

A good read over at Stand Firm by Fr. Matt Kennedy:

…The entitlement mindset, once developed, ripples outward. Family, friends, agencies, church all become sources either of nourishment and fulfillment for the individual or objects of resentment.

At this point something very interesting happens. The person seeking assistance becomes consumed with a particular kind of greed.

A wealthy person succumbs to greed when, recognizing he’s able to bend the world to his desires, he refuses to see his wealth as a means of glorifying God and serving others and instead uses it to serve and satisfy himself. He becomes the center of his universe. He does not work for anyone. There’s no one he must serve, no one to whom he must bend or give account. His soul shrinks as his wealth increases. He begins to see everyone and everything in orbit around himself.

But, cruelly, the very same thing can and often does happen to those on assistance. What begins as a needed helping hand produces over time a growing sense that all things and people revolve around and exist to serve and satisfy the “impoverished” self. The sense of entitlement that develops is for the most part identical to self-focused greed to which the rich person described above succumbs.

But it’s worse in two ways:

1. Because the person on assistance does not have the financial means to ensure that others bend to his demands, his greed, when fully developed, is exacerbated by frustrated envy which produces a deep-seated resentment the wealthy person may never know.

2. While the rich person has the means at his disposal to reverse the process by sacrifice and selfless giving, the poor person who succumbs to this kind of greed is economically trapped. Even should he repent, there is not much he can actively do to escape the cycle. He cannot give sacrificially because his food, shelter, clothing, and health care depend on receiving and the longer he has been out of work the more difficult it will be for him to find a job.

Well-meaning people sometimes assume that assistance programs help the impoverished and sometimes they do. But they can also lead to the same kind of moral and spiritual impoverishment that is more often associated with the lavishly wealthy.

So how might a Christian congregation deal with this problem?

Let’s look first at three fairly typical Christian responses to poverty….

Read it all, and check out this story from Montgomery, Alabama: Alabama nightclub raises eyebrows with ‘Food Stamp Friday’ party.

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