"Entitlement" v. "Responsibility" : Part 1

Both 'entitlement' and 'responsibility' get thrown around a lot these days, in many different arenas of life. In fact, the current state of Law in most nations that involves litigation around 'liability' also seems to involve who is responsible for what actions, and who is entitled to what.

I believe there is a fundamental virtue which can be seen in the lives of every person as to which of these principles they live. Ultimately, I think they are at opposite ends of a spectrum of whose interests are being taken into account. Entitlement has to do with me, or we, and is something we are owed or due, like our rights. Responsibility is about being accountable to someone or something else, or perhaps human rights as a entire race. It is a voluntary recognition and submission of the self to others.

What is interesting is that the focus is on a different person. Can a person be responsible and only be concerned with their own rights? If responsibility is seen as a virtue, can a person just try hard enough to be responsible? Perhaps for a little while, but when the situation boils down to impacting that persons life or the others, I think it fails. Self-interest can only go so far. Responsibility is voluntarily submitting ones own rights to the rights of others or an external standard, like God's truth. Yet how we approach that standard, or others, shows if we are approaching from entitlement or responsibility.

An entitled Christian would look at his relationship with God as what God has done and can do for him/her. The focus would be on receiving the gifts of God and be based on doing or not doing things to gain favor and/or blessings

A responsible Christian would look at his relationship with God as what God has done and is doing for all of us. The difference is the focus would be on our response to God. To participating in where God is working - on sharing what he has done with others. The focus would be on living in faithful relationship to a known God.

OK - so I may be reducing things a bit here...it is something to think through, for sure. I am convinced, however, that life only has meaning if we are responsible, for ourselves, for injustice, and to God's redeeming and saving work in this world. The only thing I'm entitled to is death, as a result of my sin. Grace is a gift, and one which I am responsible to, as God's love and sovereign mercy covers all of life. I find that my greatest joy is in knowing that I can give up, voluntarily, all those things I think I need to control and just live in realization of the God who loves and saves.

Isn't this the Gospel? Did not Jesus himself give up his entitlement and be a loving sacrifice for each and every person? Is this not responsibility, rather than entitlement? Are we not to join in being responsible people ourselves, not because we are owed anything, but because we are loved and are being transformed to where we can love as Jesus loves?

Vicarious responsibility is a term that Dietrich Bonhoeffer used which I have been reading about. It's too much to go into right now in this blog post - but I'll write on it soon as a Part 2.

 I'd love to hear others thoughts...this is something that I am processing and see in the world we live in, as responsibility is passed on, and entitlements are clung to.

To conclude this post - here are the definitions. I'll try to comment on some thought from them in the next blog. I find it VERY INTERESTING when the terms are first believed to be used in the English language.

Here are the terms defined: (definitions taken from www.merriam-webster.com)


 noun \ri-ˌspän(t)-sə-ˈbi-lə-tē\
plural re·spon·si·bil·i·ties


: the quality or state of being responsible: asa : moral, legal, or mental accountabilityb : reliability, trustworthiness
: something for which one is responsible : burden <has neglected his responsibilities>


  1. The boys denied any responsibility for the damage to the fence.
  2. A terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the bombing.
  3. The janitor has many responsibilities.
  4. Mowing the lawn is your responsibility.
  5. She has to deal with a lot of family and work responsibilities.
  6. It is your responsibility to give the company two weeks notice if you decide to leave.
  7. In her new position, she will have much moreresponsibility.
  8. We have a responsibility to protect the environment.
  9. The government's responsibility is to serve the public.
  10. The principal has responsibility for 450 students and a staff of 35.
  11. … Landau's piece, examining the fan's, and the journalist's responsibility to rock stars … —Lawrence Dietz, Los Angeles Times Book Review, 23 May 1971


(see responsible)
First Known Use: 1771


 noun \-ˈtī-təl-mənt\

Definition of ENTITLEMENT

a : the state or condition of being entitled : rightb : a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract
: a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group; also : funds supporting or distributed by such a program
: belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges


  1. my entitlement to a refund
  2. celebrities who have an arrogant sense of entitlement
  3. entitlements such as medical aid for the elderly and poor

First Known Use of ENTITLEMENT


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