In the conservative political movement today in America, there is much talk—as there should be—against the mentality of entitlement. According to this mentality, certain people are entitled or have the right to benefits like welfare of various kinds from the government. Our thesis in this article is that this mentality is actually an unwitting by-product of western “Christianity.” By this we are referring to the predominant religion of western countries in North America and Europe.
Christianity, especially in Protestant countries, gave birth to a popular emphasis on what is called “grace.” People are given the right to become children of God (John 1:12) by believing on the name of Jesus Christ. In this way they are entitled to eternal life and God’s blessings. Christ did everything for us when He died on the cross for our sins. All we need to do is to say the “sinner’s prayer” from our hearts and we become the recipients of God’s grace. By grace through faith—not by works—God’s blessings become ours. This includes earthly blessings as well. Since it is by grace and not by works, it is all free. Just believe. We are His beloved children, and He gives it all to us freely through Christ Jesus who paid the price on our behalf. (And as one recent TV commercial exclaimed, “Free is GOOD!”)
Up with “grace” and down with “works”
This has become standard fare within much of evangelical Christianity today. “Grace” has been exalted, and “works” have been downgraded to the point of becoming distasteful and to be avoided in polite Christian company. How has this come about? In reacting to the erroneous Roman Catholic tradition of salvation by dead works before the Reformation, the Church went to the opposite extreme of exalting “grace” and denying the importance of works in the lives of the followers of Christ.
It is our conviction that this mindset has led to the entitlement mentality we see in western political structures today. By virtue of simply being residents of a country, people in certain categories are deemed entitled to government benefits which they receive for free. In some states in America, one can even be an illegal alien and still receive such benefits. Essentially, the government has taken the place of the God who it is said promises and provides all good things now and later to His people “for free” and apart from any good works. The mistaken belief that everything from God is free is further compounded when we think that the government can take the place of God.
Enter Karl Marx
It may be no coincidence that the philosopher Karl Marx would later grow up in the very country and environment where the Protestant Reformation under Martin Luther changed the course of Western Civilization. It was Luther of course who questioned and protested the Roman Catholic tradition of dead works not rooted in faith. His Reformation would give birth to Protestant Christianity and later, evangelicalism. Karl Marx of course would spawn the theory behind Communism. And Communism is the logical result of the liberalism which is so fashionable today among intellectual, political, and Hollywood elites in America. Could the ideas of Karl Marx have been incubated in the environment of everything-is-free “grace” prevalent in 19th Century Germany after the Reformation?
The desire of liberal politicians for redistribution of wealth today is derived from the Marxist tenet “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Interestingly, this sounds suspiciously like the Biblical expression “from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” However, there is one crucial difference between the two. The first is fallible man’s misguided desire to create his own utopia on earth by government fiat. The second statement was made by Jesus in Luke 12:48 referring to what would take place not on earth, but in the next age at the judgment seat of Christ.
In Acts 2:44-45, “all the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” However, this was done voluntarily and cheerfully by the believers as they were led by God. It was not forced upon them by government decree—through the imposition of heavy taxes resulting in the redistribution of wealth.
Christianity without Christ gives rise to contemporary liberalism
We have argued that one consequence of liberalism is the mentality in which the “poor and disadvantaged” are with little accountability entitled to government benefits at the expense of taxpayers. And given human nature, liberalism has now become little more than a means by which politicians remain in power by securing the votes of their beneficiaries—the poor and disadvantaged. The compassion taught in Scripture has become a pretext and cover for unbridled lust for power and wealth by ideologues. This is true not only in America, but in openly Communist countries as well.
Therefore Scripture which is twisted can become a deadly weapon in the hands of the enemy. “Christianity”, “compassion”, and “tolerance”—when devoid of the lordship of Jesus Christ, when devoid of his teaching on sin and devoid of personal responsibility and accountability—become the philosophy we call liberalism. “Tolerance” then becomes a license for any and every kind of moral perversion devised by man’s sinful nature. Therefore liberalism is likely the eventual result of a distorted teaching on the true grace of God. By this we mean that believers are unconditionally entitled to God’s love and blessings because of what Christ did on the cross for them. No good works (other than tithing of course) or obedience or holiness are required for God’s blessings. This is what is often taught. It is not difficult to see how this teaching can evolve into a mentality of entitlement for a society.
Unfortunately, there are flaws in this teaching. It contradicts Scripture.
The importance of good works according Scripture
To emphasize the importance of grace, we like to quote Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 2.
Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
However, “works” in verse 9 refers specifically to “works of the Old Testament law,” and not to good works done in obedience to God’s New Testament commands.
Romans 3:28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.
That the importance of “good works”’ in obedience to God’s commands following salvation cannot be diminished is evident in Ephesians 2:10.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
New Testament Scripture also clearly teaches rewards for obedience and good works. According to 1 Corinthians, our reward (or loss of reward) in the next age—apart from salvation and in addition to it—will be determined by our performance and the quality of our works in this life.
1 Corinthians 3:12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
2 Corinthians 5:9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
These scriptures represent only a small sample of the many injunctions in the New Testament urging believers to live lives pleasing to the Lord. It is a constantly recurring theme.
The benefits of good works in this life
There are moreover benefits to be reaped even in this life for obedience which leads to fruitfulness. In John, Jesus teaches us:
John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
When the Lord chooses and appoints us and we obediently go and bear lasting fruit for him, the Father will give us whatever we ask in the name of Jesus. This is a benefit for disciples who work fruitfully for the kingdom of God. Such “good work” also includes a personal life of holiness as well. Scripture commands us not only to do good works, but also to be good.
1 Peter 1:15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
Even the love of Jesus and the love of the Father are conditional upon obedience to His commands.
John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” …23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
God’s conditional love toward obedient believers should not be confused with the love of God as taught in John 3:16 where God demonstrated His love for sinners through the one-time sacrifice of His Son on the cross. If sinners reject that love, they will eventually suffer God’s wrath.
The consequences of scriptural truth distorted
We are in the Last Days. It is time for the Church to return Scripture, and to re-discover the biblical balance between true grace and good works. True grace will result in good works and personal holiness in the life of a believer. Scriptural truth distorted by the enemy has resulted in disastrous consequences for the world. We submit that he has used it to plant the seed of the entitlement and welfare mentality which has in part led to the multi-trillion-dollar deficit now threatening the financial solvency of the United States.
Scriptural truth can save. Scriptural truth distorted and perverted can kill and destroy. It is essential that we divide the Word of God correctly.
Jude 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality…
Romans 6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means!