Haman came in, and the king said to him, “What shall be done for the man whom the king wishes to honor?” Haman said to himself, “Whom would the king wish to honor more than me?” – Esther 6:6
When two people conspired to assassinate King Ahasuerus, Mordecai, a faithful Jewish exile, discovers and reveals the plot. The king’s life is saved, and Mordecai revered. But Haman, a jealous official, doesn’t like the competition. Mordecai won’t even bow down to him. And so, he makes plans to kill not just Mordecai, but all the Jewish people in the kingdom.
The king didn’t know this was happening. In fact, he was still trying to figure out how to help Mordecai. And so he asks Haman a question: What should I do to honor someone special?
Haman, full of self-importance, has a few ideas. After all, who is more deserving than him? He tells the king to dress the man in royal robes, parade him through town on his own horse, and publicly proclaim his glory. You can almost sense that Haman is just waiting to jump into the saddle.
So of course, when Mordecai is honored instead of him, Haman is livid. He spins further and further into his anger and jealousy, and in the end is responsible for his own destruction. Meanwhile, Mordecai is exalted, and his people saved.
Entitlement is not a new phenomenon. It’s been around since the start of time. We believe we are entitled to special treatment we don’t deserve, and then become jealous when others (who do deserve it) receive it. When that happens, when we lose some of the privilege we have always assumed we’d have to protect us, it is disorienting. Suddenly being treated the way you’ve always treated others is a rude awakening.
That’s all the more reason that we all need to look at our own privilege, and our own sense of entitlement. If someone getting the fair shake for once makes us mad, they are not the problem. We are. And if we don’t want to do the work of sorting ourselves out for the the sake of justice, then perhaps we can at least start it for the sake of not destroying ourselves and then go from there.
Dear God, I am entitled to nothing. And yet, you give me grace. Help me to rejoice in your grace, no matter who it falls upon. Amen.
Emily C. Heath is the Senior Pastor of the Congregational Church in Exeter, New Hampshire, and the author of the forthcoming Glorify: Reclaiming the Heart of Progressive Christianity.