Getting Past Our Sense of Entitlement

Pastor Kim Gilliland
November 13, 2022 Pentecost 23
SCRIPTURE: 2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13
We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.
2 Thessalonians 3: 11


I’m going to start of this message with a disclaimer. This is one of those sermons that I just know is going to get under the skin of some people because you will see yourself in some of what I’m going to say. That’s because I’m going to be talking about the growing sense of entitlement that we see in society. I’m also going to talk about what the Bible says about it. But just be clear that one of the people I’m preaching to is me and, in preparing this message, I saw a lot of me in some of the illustrations that I’m going to share with you. So, let’s go!

Dr. Maitland Jones Jr. taught organic chemistry at Princeton for forty-three years until he left there to teach at NYU. He is a singularly qualified and recognized academic in in one of the most demanding courses in medical science. And yet, last month he was fired after 82 of his 350 students signed a petition against him. What was their complaint? Had he made inappropriate remarks or gestures? Had he made sexual advances towards any of his students? Had he physically assaulted anyone? The answer to all of those question is no. He was fired because the petition said that he marked too hard and had a condescending attitude toward some of his students.

When I first heard this, I was skeptical about the report. But I checked it out and concluded after checking various news source that the story is correct which is really quite frightening. I’m sure that there are nuanced to this story that are not being reported but, at least on the surface, it seems that these students thought they were entitled to good grades. If they put in the effort, if they do the work, then they expect an A regardless of how they do on their tests and assignments. This is entitlement.

This sense of entitlement seems to be rampant in our society. We see it in schools where students expect to pass regardless of what they do to earn it. We see it in the work place where people expect to be paid regardless of how much work they do or the quality of that work. Those are all examples of a sense of entitlement.

Today’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Christians in Thessalonica is a warning against having a sense of entitlement. It is about earning our way through life not just expecting things to come to us because we think we deserve them.

It starts off when our children are young. Honestly, we don’t expect of them anywhere near what generations used to expect of their children. They can spend endless hours watching TV, surfing the Internet and texting or chatting with their friends online. But how many of our children these days know how to fix the toilet or reset a breaker or change the oil in the car? Not very many. As parents we tend not to teach them. How many of our children know how to cook or do the laundry? I remember dealing with a group of youth one weekend so these were younger teens. We were making soup for Sunday lunch after church. Can you believe that none of the girls and none of the boys – not one – knew how to peel a carrot or mince an onion? Not one. Not even mine. So why don’t we teach our children basic cooking skills.

Our children just expect that their parents will keep the house in good repair and put food on the table with little or no help from the children. And do you know something? For the most part the kids are right. Most of us as parents really don’t expect much of our children when it comes to household chores.

That’s not the way it was 150 years ago. Who here has been to the John R. Park Homestead Conservation Area on the shores of Lake Erie? It’s an eye opening experience to go down there and see what children had to do back in the days before electricity, indoor plumbing and convenience stores. It was the children’s responsibility to help in the kitchen, help in the barn, work in the garden, card wool and make candles. I’m sure that they got into some trouble but they didn’t have time to get into very much of it. They were too busy doing other things.

But let’s not just pick on kids. The same thing is true of many adults. Employers will tell you that it’s not easy to find good employees. There are a lot of jobs out there that are going unfilled because people just don’t want to work anymore. And when job openings are finally filled, the next surprise might be the person doesn’t show up or, if they show up, it may be hard to get them off their phone to actually get some work done. And if you don’t believe me, talk to a small business owner. Most of them will tell you the same thing.

People want that pay cheque. But there aren’t very many people out there who actually want to work for it. They just want to be paid regardless of their work ethic.


Paul is very clear with the Christians in Thessalonica. We read in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 that Paul has heard reports about this church and those reports have not always been very positive. In fact, it appears that some people have become idle busybodies. This is what Paul is addressing in 2 Thessalonians 3:11-13 (NIV) when he writes:

We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.

There is so much that we could get out of these verses but we will try to mine three nuggets out of it to take home with us. The first nugget is this: it does you or no one else any good to sit around idle all day long and gaze at your navel. In fact, it’s probably just about the worst thing in the world not only for your physical well-being but for your emotional and spiritual well-being.

We live in a funny world. Somehow, we’ve come to think that when people are going through tough times, they need rest. And sometimes they do but sometimes they need to keep busy so that they don’t constantly stew over their issues. A good illustration of this is from a man I used to work with. Alvin was raised in a Mennonite family on a traditional farm. Like all kids, he got sick from time to time and stayed home from school.

Let me ask you, when your children stay home from school because they are sick, what do they do? I know that around our house, when one of the kids was home sick they usually laid around all day watching TV or playing games on the computer. That wasn’t the case in Alvin’s home. There was no sense of entitlement. The way his dad saw it, an extra kid at home from school was an extra hand in the barn. Needless to say, Alvin didn’t stay home sick very often. The way he saw it, he got more rest at school.

Again, adults aren’t so different. How many people here today have jobs in which you are given so many sick days over the course of the year? I imagine that many of you have that benefit. Do you know what those sick days are for? They are supposed to be used when you are sick. The operative word is sick. But when to people use them? They will take a sick day off and use it to go shopping. They use them when they need to get something done around the house that didn’t get done on the weekend. They use them for a day of fishing or golf. Or they’ll just call in sick when they feel like a day off. Employers know this and I’ve heard of some of them that are now beginning to ask their employees for doctor’s notes when they use a sick day. And some people get really upset by that. Why? Because they believe that every now and then they are entitled to a paid sick day off regardless of whether or not they are sick.

But I can hear it now, “But Pastor Kim, I work hard and every now and then I should be able to take a day off when I want to.” And to that I say, “Go ahead. If you need a day off then tell that to your employer. But don’t expect him to pay you for it.” If you want a day off, ask for a day off. Don’t call in sick when you’re not because that just fosters a sense of entitlement.

Let’s face it. None of us is really hard done by. Most of us have all that we need and more. But our sense of entitlement means that we often feel sorry for ourselves because we expect too much. But here’s something to think about; you can always find someone worse off who could use a hand up. As the old saying goes, “I once complained that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” How true that is. If you have feet, then go find someone who doesn’t. Give that person a hand up and realize just how fortunate you are.


In Paul’s second nugget he mentions busybodies who think that they are entitled to all the news around town. Note that there is a huge difference between busyness and busybodiness. It’s okay to be busy. It’s not okay to be a busybody. What’s the difference?

To be busy is to be active in helping others. It’s not about feeling entitled to what you think you are owed. It’s about reaching out to others in love. To be a busybody, on the other hand, is to be active in sticking your nose into other people’s business where it probably doesn’t belong. We all know a busybody or two. They’re the people who have all the news from around town and, if they don’t have it, they’re not adverse to making it up just to ensure that they have something to talk about. Why? Because they feel that they are entitled to the news and entitled to talk about it with anyone they choose. Older busybodies tend to use the phone. Younger busybodies prefer texting, Facebook, Twitter or Istagram.

Every community has a few busybodies. And I don’t think anyone will be surprised to learn that we may have them in the church too. That is just as true in our day as it was in Paul’s. Remember that he was writing to the Christians in Thessalonica. They were just as guilty of being busybodies as the general population and Paul warned them about it.

Does that mean that we should not talk about other people? No, it doesn’t mean that. There are times when we should talk about others but when we do talk about them, it should be because we have their best interest at heart. When people at going through tough times, it’s okay, with their permission, to put their names on a prayer chain. If someone loses and job and needs some food for his family, it’s okay to collect food and offer it. If a child is sick and has to have an operation far away it’s okay to spread the news and collect money to help the family during its time of trial. It’s okay to talk about others when we are trying to help. I can’t tell you how many times someone has called me and asked me if I knew that Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so was in the hospital and would appreciate a visit. That’s not being a busybody. That is looking out for the needs of others in their times of need.

There are also pieces of good news that we can share. It’s okay to celebrate the engagement of a couple in love. It’s okay to share news of the birth of a child. It’s okay to rejoice that your neighbour finally landed a new job and won’t have to deal with a mortgage foreclosure after all. In Romans 12:15 (NIV) we read these words: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” It’s okay to share good news and bad as long as you have the best interest of people in mind.

What God doesn’t want to hear is something like, “Did you hear that Amy and David got engaged last week… It’s about time” or “Guess what? Sally Brown is having a baby… They’re just not sure who the father is” or “It’s so good that Mr. Leavons finally got a job… Too bad he’s only making minimum wage. I guess that’s all he’s worth.” Have you ever heard comments like that? They consist of people taking good news and twisting it in such a way that if it ever got back to the person they’re talking about, they’d be hurt. That’s what busybodies do. They say things behind people’s backs that they wouldn’t dare say to their faces.

The truth is that all of us have been busybodies at one time or another. We’ve all felt entitled to share the news of the day. The way to avoid that is that when you’re tempted to tell someone something about someone else, ask yourself a simple question. If the person in question was standing in ear shot, would you still say it? If you wouldn’t, then you probably should keep it to yourself because you are really at risk of becoming a gossip and a busybody.


The third nugget that Paul mentions in his letter is that our busyness should always result in fruitfulness. We see that in the very last verse of today’s reading. 2 Thessalonians 3:13 (NIV) says, “And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.” This is a very helpful point to consider. It’s one thing to be busy. It’s another thing to be busy for the Lord because fruitful busyness brings glory to God. Once we overcome our sense of entitlement, we are much more able to do those things that bring glory to God because we become far less concerned about getting things to which we think we are entitled.

Here’s something that I’ve noticed in my own life. Not all of my busyness is fruitful. Have you ever had one of those days when you ran around all day long doing stuff and at the end of the day you looked back and wondered what you really accomplished? I’ve had days like that. You end the day discouraged, frustrated and exhausted. All you want to do is go and have a good long talk with Billy Bed and Polly Pillow but you can’t think of a single thing that you did all day long that really made a difference to anyone including you.

There are a couple of things that we can say about those experiences. The first thing is that just because you don’t feel fruitful, doesn’t mean that you haven’t been fruitful. Sometimes the most important things you can do have few or no short term results. Raising children is one example. How many of you remember when the kids were little – some of you have little ones right now? Some of you have little ones on the way. Do you remember when your entire day consisted of eat, poop, sleep, eat, poop, sleep, eat, poop, sleep. And I’m not only talking about the baby. That pretty well describes the first few months for the parents as well. The only variation to that was when you got to do laundry. Sound familiar?

I remember those days and wondered at the time when they would end. As much as I love each of my children, eat, poop and sleep got pretty old pretty quick. It sure didn’t feel that we were doing much but when I look at Ruth’s and our four children today ad their partners and our grandchildren, I know that we were doing something extremely important back then even if it didn’t feel like it at the time. The bottom line is this: you aren’t entitled to feel good all the time. Sometimes you will feel very ordinary of even down but that doesn’t meet that you aren’t being fruitful.

The second thing that I want to say is that just because you don’t feel that you have made a difference, that doesn’t mean that you haven’t made a difference. You never know who notices what you do or say. You never know who God will bring across your path to do a marvelous work. It might be someone you know well. It might be someone you meet once and never see again. Bill was a man who lived near us in Manitoba in the late 1980’s. We used to talk across the hedge all the time when we were supposed to be working in our gardens. But talking was more fun than gardening and we were both better at it anyway. I never thought anything of our talks. They were just talks, ways to avoid weeding.

It wasn’t until our going away party when we were moving away that I understood the importance of those idle talks because at that party Bill, a quiet man who always avoided speaking in public like the plague, stood up and thanked me publicly for helping him to get off the bottle and become sober. I had absolutely no idea. I thought I was goofing off and avoiding the weeds. But apparently, when Bill was having a hard day and was tempted to fall off the wagon, he’d go out and talk with me over the fence until he felt stronger. I had no idea that God was working a miracle through me all the time that Bill and I talked over the hedge.

Don’t seek only to be busy. Seek also to be fruitful. The key characteristic of fruitful busyness is that it makes a positive difference both in your life and in the lives of those around you.

Our faith demands that we seek to make a difference in a positive way. That is what Paul encourages the Thessalonians to do. It is what the Spirit encourages us to do as well. So don’t fill your time with idle chatter, listless hands and lifeless feet. Don’t be busybodies but rather keep busy by never tiring of doing good.


Heavenly Father, our hearts speak in grateful praise for all that you are and all that you have done. Your mercies are many and your blessing bountiful. We give thanks for your touch in all of life’s situations.

We thank you for those who continue to do good in the midst of a very individualistic and selfish world. We thank you for the simple kindnesses that are experienced each day. For friendly smiles and warm hugs. For common courtesy and respectful relationships. For those who hold doors open when our arms are full of parcels and assist us in getting on our coats. For those who give directions to the lost. For those who stop to help someone in need or offer support in difficult times. For all of these people and for many more, we give thanks.

We thank you for all of those who work so diligently around our Churches to make them good places to be. We thank you for those who are doing so much to make this week’s turkey supper in a success. We would just ask your assistance in providing good weather and patient nerves on the big day.

We pray, also, for those who are sick this day. We lift up in prayer Mark, Carol, Ron, Rachel, Stephanie and Kevin. Keep all those who are ill in your special care. Heal us and sanctify us from all our unrighteousness.

God of Grace and Glory, hear our prayers, remind us of our blessings and lift us up above our weariness. Shine you light upon us so that we may shine your love to others. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


November 13, 2022 / Pentecost 23 / Proper 28


Isaiah 65: 17-25; Isaiah 12; Luke 21: 5-19; 2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13


Praise our God, all you people of God!

God is our comfort and peace!

God is our Saviour!

Let us rejoice in God’s salvation!


We give thanks to you, O God, as we call upon your name. May all the nations of the world know of your greatness. We come to you with our songs of praise, grateful for what you have done. The news of your majesty is in our hearts and upon our lips. We come to you with shouts of praise. Your glory shines as you live amongst us. We welcome you as you have welcomed us. Amen.


We proclaim your greatness in public but sometimes we are fearful in our hearts. Worry weighs us down. We are buried by the burden of our anxiety. You have told us to trust and you have given us good reason to rely upon your word. But our faith is sometimes weak and our nerve is frayed. Lift us out of our fearful dark places and set our spirits high upon the steeple of your making.


“Fear not,” says God, “for I am with you always.” When we trust in God we will not be disappointed. When we confess our sins and repent of the evil that we do we are cleansed by the power of the Cross. Thanks be to God for this great and generous gift.


You call us, O God of Creation, to look toward a new heaven and a new earth. With these gifts, we not only look, we also act and trust that what we give will be used for the higher purpose of your Holy Realm. Amen.


We have come as individuals from our own places and duties. We go as one people: one in the Spirit, one in faith, one in the hope that Jesus offers. May God’s peace be upon us always.

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