Obligation and Entitlement

We often misunderstand obligation and entitlement. We tend to perceive others’ obligation as our entitlement. But this is not right. Others’ obligation is not our entitlement. We should not demand what we are not entitled to.

Teachers are obligated to be good teachers, but this doesn’t mean that students are entitled to good teachers. Students should study hard, but they should not demand good teachers. Likewise, students are obligated to be good students, but this doesn’t mean that teachers are entitled to good students. Teachers should teach well, but they should not demand good students.

It is the same thing in marriage. Husbands ought to love their wives, and wives ought to obey their husbands. Husbands are commanded to love their wives. This doesn’t mean that wives are to demand their husbands to love them. Likewise, wives are commanded to obey their husbands. This doesn’t mean that husbands are to demand their wives to obey them. “Husbands ought to love their wives” is a command for husbands to love, and not an incentive for wives to demand love. Likewise, “wives ought to obey their husbands” is a command for wives to obey, and not an incentive for husbands to demand obedience.

The principle applies as well in our relationship in general. When we are told to love our neighbours as ourselves, this is an obligation, not an entitlement. Love is an obligation, not an entitlement. Our sinful nature tends to attract us to ourselves. We all still need a lot to learn what it means to deny ourselves, to be broken bread, poured out wine.


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