(Video is at the bottom of this page.)
If giving to and receiving from others based on fairness results in obligation, resentment, entitlement and emptiness, how do you prevent obligation, avoid resentment, eliminate entitlement and not end up empty inside?
The answer is found in your answers to three questions.
First, is life a gift? At times life’s challenges are heavy and feel like an obligation. Let’s say you gave me a ring and I wore this ring for years. One day, I noticed a strange growth developing just under the ring and the doctor tells me the ring has caused cancer to develop in my finger. While the ring has given me cancer, it will always be a gift from you to me. Life as a gift has many implications. Your children are a gift. Your partner is a gift. Your job is a gift. Yes, you looked for a job, but you didn’t “get” your job, someone gave you a job. So, even your work is a gift. Your friends, home, customers, income, attractiveness, intelligence, health, abilities and disabilities are all gifts. All of life is a gift. Everything you have, you have received.
Receiving life as a gift, you are a steward of the gift rather than its creator or the owner.
Your role in relationship to life’s gifts is to manage those gifts in gratitude rather than attempt to possess them or control them. You might even think that if you paid your house off, it would be yours. Well, Wrong again. Don’t pay the property taxes and the state will auction it off. Not even your house is ultimately yours.
If everything in life is a gift and you are a grateful steward of life’s gifts, then do you, at the very least, consider what the creator or owner wants you to do with the gifts he has entrusted to you. This brings us to the next question.
How do you relate to life’s gifts? Do you relate to life from the framework of what you think is fair? A fairness mentality makes you the ultimate point of reference for what is good enough, requires others to meet your standards of what you think should be or not be and you end up determining the worthiness of another to be in your life based on their compliance with your standards.
Let’s look at an example from parenting: If your son or daughter was asked, “What do you owe your parents for all the years of parenting they’ve given you?” Would you want your child’s answer to be “I owe it to my parents to be a good person” or “I owe my parents everything after all look at all they’ve done for me.” OR would you want your child’s answer to be, “I don’t really owe my parents anything I just love spending time with them.”
If your answer is that you would not want your child owing you anything… but Just love spending time with you, how much more don’t you think that’s God’s answer for His children. Is God like the first banker, who appears generous by offering you increasingly more money, but at such a high interest rate you could never repay him? Or is God like the second banker offering you the money freely: no strings attached? Does a relationship with God free you or obligate you? Have you parented from a framework of fairness or have you given freely to your children?
Obviously, parents can give freely, but children can still receive from a framework of what they think is fair… feeling obligated to their parents and developing a sense of entitlement, children can resent their parents for not appreciating all they’ve done for them. Eventually, children can feel exhausted and empty inside from trying to please, measure up and be good enough to what they believe their parents expect of them.
I didn’t say any of this was rational. It’s the way children receive using the framework of fairness from their parents.
Again, parents may be giving freely, but their children may still be receiving based on what they think is fair. On the other hand, parenting from a framework of what is fair… and wanting children obligated to you comes from fear that if you set them free to make their own choices, they won’t make the choices you’d want them to make, or even do back for you like you’ve done for them. Using fairness as your way of parenting, you attempt to control your children on your terms and from your limited frame of reference rather than allowing them to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes as they mature.
When it comes to a relationship with God, feeling obligated to God is about how you’ve received (on your terms based on what’s fair) rather than how God has given (freely) on HIS terms.
Another way to look at this is: Do you want God giving you what you deserve? NO. Then why would you feel obligated to HIM? Again, because you’ve received based on what you think is fair, owing and deserving, not based on how God gives freely… God loves you because that’s who God is… God is love. God doesn’t love you because of you, God loves you and gives freely to you because of God. You can’t qualify yourself for the gift or disqualify yourself from the gift. In other words, you can’t be good enough for the gift or so bad that you can’t receive His gifts. You can receive God and life’s gifts freely and be transformed from inside out, so that you become aware of HIM as your creator, master and Lord and you as his grateful steward or manager of what he’s given you.
How you receive makes all the difference. Interestingly, the same task can be received as a responsibility or an Obligation.
The opposite of obligation is responsibility or the ability to have a response. What is the difference between obligation and responsibility? Obligation is hard and that burden is heavy because you can never rest. You’ve always got to be on.
Responsibility, on the other hand, is easy and that burden is light. Matthew 11: 28-30 says, Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
When my kids were small, my wife would say, those kids need a bath and I would slowly, half-heartedly, minimally drag them upstairs and just barely bathe them because I received the task as an obligation. It was exhausting. Then one day I realized my kids were not always going to be young. My wife would say, those kids need a bath and I would jump up and race them upstairs, splash and giving them a bath was no longer a chore, but an adventure … I embraced the responsibility for giving my kids their baths. While everything else was the same, The difference was in how I received the task. Receiving freely, results in responsibility for the opportunity or gift. Because God created life based on how you receive in relationship to HIM… our part is to receive HIS gifts in gratitude, freely allowing a transformation to occur from inside out. So, What frees you from fairness’ obligation, entitlement, resentment and ultimately feeling empty inside? Again, your answer to this final question is the key to living in this freedom.
Is the Gospel Good News?
What is the gospel? The gospel is that Jesus, God’s one and only son, came to this earth, lived, died, was buried, and resurrected from the dead. He was the sinless Son of God, who did the measuring up and being good enough on your behalf because you can not be good enough or measure up in your ability. In Matthew chapter 5 Jesus, talking to his disciples said, * “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
The Law He is referring to is the Ten Commandments. He went on to say, For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. These religious leaders believed they could measure up and be good enough in their own ability. To make his point more clearly, Jesus went on to say, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, he said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Jesus raised the bar from a behavioral set of do’s and don’ts from the Ten Commandments to a mental and emotional standard that nobody can keep to emphasize that the point is not about keeping a set of rules, or trying to measure up or be good enough but rather having a personal relationship with HIM as the one who has done all the measuring up on your behalf: Given freely and received freely. Jesus, God’s gift to humanity, frees you from the * bondage of fairness’ obligation, resentment, entitlement and emptiness giving you a completely different identity and way of relating to others in life. Because God is love, He wants you to experience intimacy, from your relationship with Him and expressed to your partner and others in your life. If you are exhausted from trying to measure up and be good enough to someone else’s standard that has left you empty inside,
*Jesus turns obligation into responsibility, resentment into gratitude, entitlement into humility and emptiness into contentment. As you submit your life and relationship approach to God’s way of having relationships, what was once dead can be resurrected in ways you never expected! Jesus gave his life freely on the cross … satisfying His Father’s standard of holiness by dying to the need to measure up or be good enough once for all. Now, you neither have to continually try to measure up and be good enough, nor hold others to your standard of what you think is good enough.
Receiving Jesus’ “good enough” in your place, sets you free from what you think is fair to love your partner, children, family and friends from a place of security and intimacy with God that you can’t achieve in your effort. As the righteousness of God in Christ, you are free to give yourself to others and receive freely from others, just as Jesus has given himself to you and receives freely from you. Now, you may still feel like you owe to others and deserve from them, but giving and receiving freely transforms you and your relationships, so that you live wholeheartedly with the creator rather than in your own goodness or efforts at measuring up. This is where intimacy begins.