The Modern American Dream: Dependency and Entitlement

Picture this: It is 1945. A family of seven is struggling to get by. The father works two jobs while the mother teaches their children. They barely have time for family supper, but they still do it, knowing the importance of family. As they grow up, both the parents and children understand the value of effort. They understand that there is a difference between wants and needs. They grow up knowing first hand that in order to get ahead, you have to be diligent and put forth effort. In order to thrive, you need not the things of this world, but the comfort and mercy of the Lord. Each generation, these values were instilled and each generation prospered.

This was until one person realized that hard work was not necessary if you could just claim anything as your right: healthcare, higher education, family heirlooms. They weren’t just wants, and they weren’t just needs, they were entitlements. For about a half a decade, the man who thought being entitled would get him ahead, prospered. But then, when the lack of work and the intensity of his ego started to backfire, the entitlement mentality left the man in despair.

The American dream used to be about doing better by working harder and working smarter. Only the people who tried to obtain the American dream would do such. Now, the American dream itself is considered an entitlement.

Our generation has decided that because something is good, it is a need. And, because it is a need, it is a right. Because it is a right, it must be given to every person regardless of the lack of effort needed by individuals to attain it. This logic is flawed. Healthcare is not a right. Education is not a right. Marriage isn’t even a right. Why? Well, let’s take a step back and define what a right is.

A universal and cultural definition of a right can vary. You might say that you have the right to marry whomever you want. And, if everyone in the world is equal, then everyone should have that right too. But, what if someone never finds a husband? If they have the right to marry, and therefore entitlement to marriage, then why can’t they just take a random person and marry them?

They can’t do that because rights aren’t entitlements. And, your rights stop where another human starts. You don’t have the right to a person just because you want to marry them. You don’t have the right to take an individual to force them to teach you what you want to know. And, you don’t have a right to take a doctor and tell them to fix you just because doctors are important.

Human rights are innate, ordained by God and can be obtained without the pursuit of another individual. You do not have the rights to your neighbor, you only have the rights to yourself.

What does this mean for our current entitlement-driven society? Well, when culture changes and the meanings of words become warped, the importance of values decrease. If any generation wants to try to be entitled to things in which they can’t be, eventually, the lack of work ethic will catch up to them. If an entire generation decides that everyone deserves to be happy, but takes out the fact of the matter that we live in an unjust, human and sin-ridden world, then that generation will either be disappointed or live in a world of denial.

We can not change what is true, we can only masquerade the truth with a world of corrupt lies, or we can accept the truth, knowing that we must work in a world where there is failure, but where there is also a God who loves.

If we want to change the education system, make healthcare more affordable, or make college more affordable, the answer is not giving it away for free. The answer lies in hard work and the infinite being of Christ. Our world will always fail. We can never be perfect. But if we just pretend like there is no truth in good values – if we pretend like we can be perfect and happy just by having things handed to us, then we will never improve our society, we will only doom it quicker.

Everyone needs help. That does not mean we shouldn’t offer it. In fact, as Christians, we should live to glorify the Lord, and through that, that means helping those in need. However, we can help people without creating a sense of entitlement and dependency. In fact, we can help people, while sharing the truth that is in Christ and His character. Christ is always the answer to a society in need, despite how far away from Christ that the society is.