"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."--Philippians 2:5-8 It's Memorial Day today, a day in our country that we remember, specifically the sacrifices made by the brave soldiers who died to protect our country. I must confess, however, that I don't always think much about the day except how I'm going to spend the day off.
Perhaps this just goes to show how egocentric I am. How easy it is to think that I am the center of the universe. How much I deserve a good life. When I think this way, then struggle, pain and difficulty come as a shock because I think I deserve so much better.
And yet, when I think about it, this is not the way that Jesus thought about His life. The one who could have demanded all did not count Himself as equal to God. Not only that, He took it a step further---He humbled Himself to become a servant.
As I remember this Memorial Day, this is one attitude that as parents, we really need to watch out for in our own hearts. I know it irks me when my kids think that just because they want something they are entitled to have it. Do I do the same thing as well?
When we begin to think that God owes me more than I have, when I think that I am entitled to a better lifestyle than I currently live, when I am shocked when tragedy strikes me, I betray an attitude of the heart. Unless I constantly and regularly remind myself that without Jesus, I am nothing---no wait, more than that, I was dead in my trespasses, disobedient, and were by nature children of wrath (Eph 2: 1-3)---I will not have the humility of Christ. I will never be able to live out the call of Philippians 2.
So it is with our kids. If we do not want to raise a generation of spoiled brats who think we owe them the world, we need to keep a vigilant eye on this attitude. If we all believe that this world exists to serve us, who will step up when the battle is at its fiercest? Who will be willing to lay down their rights so that others may have life?
Those that died on this day have made that choice. In each of them, young men willingly laid down their own lives to protect those they love. Will I, will my children be willing to do the same?
What We Can Do Now
I personally believe that the best antidote to the attitude of entitlement is humble gratitude. Most of us begin by teaching our little ones to say "Thank you" or say grace before meals. These very tangible gifts are blessings that they can readily see and appreciate.
But we must not stop there. I need to teach my kids to say thank you for privileges that they have or the intangible blessings that we cannot always see or the everyday things that we often take for granted. Things like being a citizen in a free country. The grace of God. Every beat of our heart. The more that we learn to thank God for all these things, the more we realize how much we have already been given.
My next goal is to teach them to sacrifice. We have been given much so we can in turn use it to bless others. One family I know chooses to eat beans and rice for a meal every now and then, then sets the money that could be saved aside so that it can be given to help relief organizations. It is a simple way to remind our children of how much they have...and how much they have to give.
We also do not just hand over to our kids whatever they want. It is not wrong for them to desire high-ticket items. But sometimes in our desire to bless our kids generously, we unsuspectingly foster an entitlement attitude. God does not give us rocks or snakes, but we all know that He also doesn't give us everything we want. He is not a genie in a bottle. When He chooses to withhold something, it is always for good purpose.
If that is the way God parents us, this gives us a clue on how we can raise our own children as well. For example, instead of buying an iPod touch for our daughter, we are teaching her how to earn and save money for it. My prayer is that when she finally receives that prized possession, she will have a greater appreciation for the value of that blessing.
As we teach our children to count their blessings, say thank you, sacrifice, and remember the goodness of God, we give them a great gift---a thankful heart. And as Madame Blueberry of Veggie Tales fame says, "A thankful heart is a happy heart."
And that is a far greater gift than any we can ever give.