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Bedford, Texas, United States
Pastor of Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Bedford, Texas and former Professor of Old Testament. But mostly I am a husband of an amazing wife, father of gifted children, and servant of an AWESOME God.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What the Children in Africa Re-Taught Me - Worth versus Entitlement

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.(Philippians 4:12) 

For a lot of people, Philippians 4:13 is their favorite verse, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Indeed, it is a powerful statement of God's power manifested through us as we live our lives.  But more recently the verse immediately preceding it has drawn my attention. 

I recently had the privilege of being able to serve on a short term mission trip to Zimbabwe. The primary focus of the trip was to work with orphanages in Harare, spending time with the kids and letting them know that Jesus loves them. As is often the case with short term trips like this, I likely received more from the trip than I was able to deliver. 

As I went from orphanage to orphanage during the week, I was struck by how content the children were in so many ways. They certainly wanted things (candy, toys, attention) when it was made available, but I noticed that even when they didn't receive it, they went about their activities with a happy attitude.  In reflecting on this, I think there are at least two probable causes behind this reality...the fact that they are children and the fact that they have come through deprivation, not to expect anything as their own.

The first is certainly heartwarming and perhaps a part of the child-likeness we are called to as believers (Luke 18:17). Children live life very much in the now. This has the negative impact in their failure to express patience, but it has the positive implication of being generally content. I have seen children spend hours with little more than a couple blocks of wood or in my youngest's case a long piece of yarn, simply content with what they have and with no complaining. It's only the introduction of some expectation that generally moves a child from contentment to anxiety. A sense of entitlement creeps in and contentment is lost.

Which brings me to the second part of the orphan's reality. It is indeed heartbreaking that the children have to do without so much...especially a mom and dad to love them! I don't believe the loss of a sense of being worth something is part of God's plan for anyone. God created us in His Image. He sent His Son to Die for Us. He loved us while we were still in rebellion to Him. He is LOVE! But I do believe that there is something to learn from their lack of a sense of entitlement and their appreciation for even the smallest gestures of time and love.

Too often we think we are entitled to things that we really aren't entitled to. That is, we confuse "worth" with "entitlement." The former is an outside value placed on us by God, the latter is an inner sense that grows out of pride and self-centeredness. In reality, we aren't entitled to anything - whether it's a bigger house, more comfort, a full stomach, or even salvation itself. Until we realize that, contentment will evade us and the full joy of the salvation we have experienced will allude us.

The children in the orphanages in Zimbabwe hopefully saw the love of Christ and the worth He places on them through our visit and that of others.  He places a great worth on all of humanity. For myself, I hope in the days ahead I continue to learn the lessons of contentment by remembering that while I am worth much in the mind of my Creator, He doesn't owe me anything.

Thanks Tyler Downing for the pictures below!

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