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Joseph: An Un-Entitled Life

Entitlement is a often used word in our culture. It’s defined as an individual’s belief that they deserve something. It may be time, resources or another consideration. Entitlement is often linked to believing that one should be provided for or thinking that other people should respect their belief or position. People with a sense of entitlement often only focus on their own individual happiness, position or what they can receive because of who they are or what they have done.

Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, never adopted this mindset. He was a man who lived a radically un-entitled life.

When we read the early chapters of the gospels of Luke and Matthew, we find a man of tremendous character. There is never a mention of “who he is,” or “what God told him to do.” When we look at Joseph’s encounter with the innkeeper, the story of the shepherds and the wise man, there isn’t one word about Joseph being entitled to something. We don’t find the innkeeper upgrading his room because he’s the father of the soon-to-be-born Messiah. The shepherds and the wise men don’t lavish worship or gifts upon him. We just do not find “entitlement.”

Joseph’s attitude of un-entitlement isn’t teaches us a couple of things.

A sense of entitlement (the opposite of Joseph’s attitude) can cause us to miss God’s affirmation and provision. Can you imagine what would have happened if Joseph inserted his credentials into the conversation with the innkeeper? What would have happened if the innkeeper, understanding who Joseph was and how important of a position he held, found a room down the street for he, Mary and the baby? With such an entitled mindset would they have missed the shepherds? Would they have missed God’s affirmation and His provision by relying on Joseph’s sense of entitlement? Perhaps.

How many times have you relied on your own strength, credentials, position or name to get what you wanted, only to find out later that God had something better in mind? What provision, affirmation and blessing from God did you miss because you tried to do things on your own?

Secondly, we can learn humility from Joseph’s un-entitled attitude. When we study Joseph’s life we see a humble man who actively seeks to fulfill God’s will, not his own.  As Adam Hamilton wrote, “God demonstrates a propensity to choose and use people who live in relative obscurity and whose lives reflect true humility.”[1]

Joseph was a man who lived in small village, worked hard at his carpentry trade and who shows incredible humility instead of entitlement. In Luke 2:6–7 swaddling cloths and a manger (a feeding trough) are not beneath him. He approaches life as a just, loving, merciful man who walks in humility. He didn’t put his nose in the air in a stable full of animals. Instead, he humbly followed God’s path without razing a ruckus or causing a scene because of who he was.

Joseph occupies a special place of importance at the time God’s Son enters into human history. He is the link (“son of David”) that joins Jesus Christ to the line of descent from which the world would receive her Messiah. He is a just man, who lived a life of humility. He didn’t feel entitled, but rather his faith led him to live with an un-entitled attitude. As a result, his hands were open to the promises and provision of God.

[1] Adam Hamilton, The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011), eBook edition

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