Written by Paul J. Bucknell on April, 23, 2021
The Stolen Sweets: Examining the Entitlement Mindset
Have you found it frustrating to work with coworkers who prize laziness and lack a good work ethic? Let’s increase our love for them!
“Whoever is naive, let him turn in here,” And to him who lacks understanding she says, “Stolen water is sweet; And bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, That her guests are in the depths of Sheol.” (Proverbs 9:16-18 NASB)
Proverbs 9 uses a personification of a man’s visit to a harlot to expose the naivety of the simpleton and fool. There is a broader purpose here than merely highlighting the error of adultery; it’s painting an accurate picture of naivety, well-captured in these words:
“Stolen water is sweet;
And bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
The stolen water and bread speak more broadly of the enticement lurking behind stolen items; there is a special attraction about them. The thief finds energy in the series of thoughts: “I deserve it!” or “I need it more than them!” They assume that they deserve something that is not theirs; the spirit of entitlement underlies their thoughts and decisions.
This mindset has become increasingly common in the workplace and in society. Some people presume they have the right to get paid the same, in spite of being lazy and irresponsible on the job. Just as with any sin, people mask their wrong-doing with excuses. In this case, they are convinced they are the most clever, enjoying their stolen sweets while still getting paid.
These colleagues have never been trained to work responsibly. Just as God spoke against adultery in the Ten Commandments, He has told us the value of working six days a week. Foolishness arises whenever a person glibly dismisses some aspect of God’s Word.
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God…” (Exodus 8-10a).
God instructs everyone to work even though it brings pain, aches, inconvenience, and challenges to our lives. Those trained in God’s Word gain a faith that the labor generates reward, personal enrichment, and provision for their lives.
The more we associate obedience to God’s Word with a profitable life, the better it is for us. This is Proverbs’ theme.
A Broader Picture
There is much going on behind the routine workday or week—and it’s not the taxes that we pay!
Work becomes our opportunity to use the body and minds that God has given us to serve Him and others. The gift of life is an invitation to participate in the Lord’s global field of the rich opportunities that He gives by bringing a reward. The often overlooked part of that reward is the personal sense of fulfillment that we receive when we work hard and diligently help others.
This biblical viewpoint connects God with our labors and lives. As His stewards, we obtain a prized inner enrichment, knowing that we are fulfilling His will.
Our modern world has resisted God’s command to only work six days a week. God does not say “go to work” six days but to work. Whether we are paid or not, that is not the issue. It’s proper for us to work as God commanded Adam before the fall. We support the common good. The imagined prize of getting out of work or trying to work less, has, though, trapped many in a deep dark well of irresponsibility. Some claim medical problems, taking extra long breaks, calling off for no legitimate reason and still expect to receive a regular check.
The Mindset of the ‘Entitled’
A huge gap separates those who have a good work ethic from those who do not. The latter believes he gains more by not working, coming in late, calling off, or doing as little as possible while at the workplace.
In their minds, they believe they have discovered the best of life in their work avoidance tactics and obtain the most significant gain when they get paid for doing less. This is the stolen waters, thinking they are maximizing their reward with the least amount of labor.
Proverbs 9 denounces this deception. What King Solomon, the author of most of the proverbs, says of the adulterer is also true of the lazy worker, “But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.”
Solomon speaks about those unwilling to work hard elsewhere. Read Proverbs and discover this oft-repeated truth.
Proverbs 10:26 - “Conflict”
Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the lazy one to those who send him.
Proverbs 12:27 - Ungratefulness
A lazy man does not roast his prey, but the precious possession of a man is diligence.
Proverbs 15:19 - “Ouch!”
The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.
There are no free stolen waters, however. The fool only discovers the great cost of that “free money” too late. God has embedded His intrinsic laws and judgment into the world.
The Conflict of Working Together
Admittedly, it’s hard for these two groups to work together. Solomon describes them as “smoke to the eyes!” Their outlook and motivations vastly differ. But when we gain a picture of the whole situation, it’s much easier to see why God might have appointed us these opportunities to work with people who hold vastly different assumptions from us.
Both groups have their set perspectives; each affirms they are right and smart to carry out their lives the way they see fit. But what drives these groups?
Though three other workers might scoff at our diligent work, God’s workers need to remember His applause during these times. You have your reward no matter how others despise you but dare to step beyond your feelings. Have compassion on those facing miserable lives here on earth and end up in much worse situations on Judgment Day. If it wasn’t for God’s hand on you, might you also share such an attitude?
Though tired, exhausted, hot, and sore from our work, because of God’s Word and training in our families, and experience, we gain an extra measure of strength and purpose of life, feeling quite fulfilled about our goals. (We can also mistakenly work for work’s sake, but that is another issue we hope to discuss.)
This mindset is precisely what the naive lack. By admiring their cheaply won loot, they fool themselves, thinking they have gained the best deal, where, in fact, the darkness has subjugated another part of their soul.
It’s tough to imagine how these people operate, even when their job is at risk—unless we remember how they think they get the biggest reward with the least effort. They believe they have won, even if they are finally dismissed from their job three months in.
It’s unlikely, if not impossible, to change an adult plagued by this destructive mentality. It’s their fundamental life belief. It’s virtually impossible to retrain the sense of responsibility into them. Try it if you dare! Blessed are the employers who find hard-working employees!
But what do we do when our colleagues are not hard-working but caught up in this web of inner deceit?
Solomon warns us many times through Proverbs to avoid entanglements with such individuals. However, our Lord gives us the challenge of working with them as fellow employees—even if we would not have chosen it! We need to prayerfully let the Spirit of God use His Word of Hope to guide His truth into their lives.
When Two World Views Clash
Don’t be caught unaware of this coming storm of conflict, or you will be caught off guard and so frustrated that you will miss your opportunity. Different work ethics produce a lot of clash, but speaking against these individuals or looking down on them doesn’t help but exacerbate the trouble.
We can’t easily change their habits, but we can improve their world outlook by our example and words. Both are essential.
Start by consciously enjoying your job—even when beads of sweat slide from your forehead. Don’t let those around you minimize your efforts. Frustration with others strips away your inner confidence and fulfillment. Nor look down on them as if you are superior; that results in pride.
Instead, treat them as humans with genuine needs, made in the image of God. We respect them, despite their action or non-action. Our love will demonstrate itself in the way we think of them, talk with them, and share our hope that the Lord has given to us.
Preserve your relationship with them despite your different world views. Satan wants you to oppose them so that you have no compassion and are unwilling to speak to them kindly.
Your first witness is through your work and cheerful spirit towards life and them! Don’t let your gripes get you down—that is the devil’s temptation. People are not your problem—believe it or not (Eph 6:12)! Your joy is in your hard work for the Lord, the owners, and helping your coworkers. This is your privilege. But let your life also seek occasion for saying the right words.
Our “strange” lives will, at times, create opportunities to share our testimony of what makes us tick. Don’t just assume your work ethic is because of your parents’ training. Though the Lord has used that training, look deeper and consider how He has used that training. He made known to you a biblical outlook that enables you to live in God’s presence all through the day. Tell them the “reason for the hope that you have” as they seek understanding.
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3:15).
After all, they probably think you are crazy to work so hard when they, with little effort, get the same pay. The different views are oddly humorous, but we need to step beyond this difference by focusing on their lives.
Grieve over how they can’t see how stuck and lifeless they are, entrapped in the world’s delusive cage. Without God’s teaching, you would not have God in this world either and would, no doubt, live by one or more of the world’s chants and slogans.
As you have the opportunity, point to what makes you different due to God’s grace—include your spiritual change of heart and the accompanying outlook on how God offers a better life through obedience to His Word.
That joyful face of yours casts a ray from heaven, enabling them to wonder about their conclusions; they don’t have that joy and purpose. The welfare society with broken families has contributed to this mindset, but it’s being further exacerbated by pushing for equal pay, no matter if one works—Universal Basic Income (UBI). I understand this agenda supposedly alleviates poverty, but its proponents miss the more reprehensible problem behind poverty, namely, denying a person’s God-given value and personal responsibility.
They end up the same, falsely concluding that they deserve something for nothing. “Stolen water is sweet; and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But remember the outcome…
This one portrait exposes how people consume themselves by their destructive life philosophy. Having been convinced that they have the best, they don’t see their self-deception, disobedience towards God, and abuse of others by refusing to carry their weight (i.e., do their part).
Our Attitudes and Heart
As His witnesses, God will give us opportunities to pray for them and show them the inner delight and joy of serving God and others through our example and words. Jesus did this for us. God reached out to this desperate worldly crowd (including us) by sending His only Son into this world.
Pray that God would use your life to help others see that there’s a much better way of life. Their pathways are the roads that lead to death. Without you, they cannot see how God’s Word can benefit their lives. Your life demonstrates that there is a better life—a most desirable one.
They might be religious, but don’t let this fool you. Help them see what the Bible says and what it means to have a relationship with God, their Creator. Insights into God’s better ways lead to significant changes in how they live their lives. Jesus’ Word makes people free through these means (John 8:31-32).
By excluding God from their world (Eph 2:12) they dismantle their world while their self-deceit sadly shapes them into a hardened entity, too ensnared to unravel by themselves.
And yet, you rub shoulders with them—the very thing you don’t like, but their behavior derives from a false philosophy (Eph 6:12). You can step out of a typical self-defensive or arrogant response by vigorous prayers, knowing that God has placed you there for a greater reason—to help them see God’s love and care for them—something they would otherwise not see.
Your challenge is to share what inspires you to tell them about the gospel and how Jesus gave his life to save others, a powerful example of love, liberty, and fulfillment. This is all done in the context of God’s purpose for our lives.
Love them and seek the Lord for openings to share the gospel. Share with the lost; your words might be the very means God uses to bring them to His light.
Day by day, we see them getting further stuck in that narrow well, convinced that it is the best life for them. We see them stuck, stubborn, and helpless, missing out on life by remaining stuck down deep.
Our job is to convince them that there’s a better world and that life is found in God’s rich blessings and goodness that accompany hard labor.
God has created people in his own image. Without acknowledging His purpose for mankind, people are distraught and prone to focus on immediate pleasures found in sensual lust, ease, and lies, while shutting out the needs of others. That is why their lives are so bleak and lead to destruction.
Satan strives to take away their dignity by having them focused on their desires, making them unresponsive to God’s greater purposes for their lives and the needs of others. By stripping them of their purpose in life and their contribution, they become trapped deep in that well of deception. Jesus, however, still offers the Word of Life to them.
Discussion Questions for The Stolen Sweets
- Read Proverbs 9:16-18 and tell what “Stolen Waters” refers to. Be free to look at the larger context.
- Why does the author say this also refers to a worldly attitude, “getting something for nothing?”
- Have you ever had this attitude or approach in life? Please share.
- Do you presently have coworkers that share such an attitude?
- Identify different ways modern thought esteems this approach to life, such as Universal Basic Income (UBI).
- What does the work ethic look like?
- Why do we say one teaching is biblical while another is foolish?
- How does the author suggest we can best help those around us that have these mistaken mindsets?
- Tell how living out one’s life and sharing words as God allows us to bring the most help to the lost.
- Share any particular struggles you have convincing others of the biblical work ethic; include the challenge of training children.
Other Reading Material on Biblical Work Ethic and Training
Please refer to our Parenting Digital Library.
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