By Fr. Roy Cimagala
THIS danger usually arises when we are not contented with what we have or with what is promised to us. It arises when we tend to compare ourselves with others in an improper way—that is, not for the glory of God but rather for our own self-interest only.
We are reminded of this danger in that gospel parable about a landowner hiring workers in different hours of the day. (cfr. Mt 20,1-16) The landowner saw idle people around and decided to hire them, promising to pay them a certain amount of money. When he saw other idle people in the latter part of the day, he also decided to hire them, promising them to pay them something.
As it turned out, when the time came to pay them, the landowner decided to pay the same amount to everyone, irrespective of the time they were hired. That’s when those hired in the first hour thought they would receive more than what was promised, obviously because they rendered longer time of work.
But the landowner noticed that those hired in the first hour grumbled about their pay, and so, he corrected them saying, “Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?”
That’s when the parable ended with the intended concluding lesson with these intriguing words of Christ: “Are you envious because I am generous? Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Indeed, we need to be most wary of this danger of envy that would lead us to feel entitled just because we came ahead of the others, or more gifted and privileged than them. That would lead us to think that those who came later than us or who are less gifted than us to be better rewarded by God than we are if they were given the same treatment.
What we should rather do is to be contented with what we have as given by God through his different ways, and just focus on what we have to do to fulfill our duties and responsibilities. Anyway, in the end God knows what to give us in return, and he can never be outdone in generosity.
We should just be generous in our self-giving without feeling entitled. This was the example of Christ himself who, being God, emptied himself to become man and to bear all the sins of men by dying on the cross, all for the purpose of saving mankind. (cfr. Phil 2,7)
He reiterated this point when he lamented about the domineering sense of entitlement of some of the leading Jews of his time while praising the poor widow who put all that she had into the temple treasury. (cfr. Mk 12,38-44)
While it’s true that we obviously are entitled to our rights, we should not feel entitled to privileges and favors that are above our rights and needs. If they come and we cannot avoid them, then let’s be thankful.
But let’s be reminded that these privileges, favors and blessings are meant for us to strengthen our desire to serve more and not to be served. But as it is, we should try to avoid them, since they tend only to spoil and corrupt us.
We have to be most wary when we happen to enjoy some privileged positions or status in life because we tend to think that we deserve more entitlements. And not only would we expect them. We may even demand them for us.