Pekudei: The Entitlement Generation
The entitlement generation claims whatever they want as their entitlement. Let me tell you a story:
Tim Hortons, a coffee house chain, runs an annual contest called, “Roll Up To Win.” Customers roll back the rim of their coffee cup to see if they won a prize. This year, the contest was moved from the cup to an app. It turns out that there was a glitch, and many customers were notified that they won a $10 000 daily jackpot. Tim Hortons discovered the glitch and sent an apology notice. They kindly included a $50 gift to express their regret for the disappointment caused by their error.
In previous years that would have been the end of it. People would have accepted the $50 gratefully. But not anymore. Not in the entitlement generation. The story went viral as many took to traditional and social media to express their dismay at receiving only half a percent of their winnings. They had been excited filled with dreams and Tim Hortons let them down. They should be compensated, they claim.
One man even consulted a lawyer and threatened legal action to collect “his” money. He doesn’t want the $50. He will never return to Tim Hortons. He wants his $10 000 and he wants it now. He is not alone; others are also upset. As one man put it, “I want the $10000 your app told me I won.”
Today’s Sad Reality
Lawyers suggest that there is little chance they might win their case, but I am dismayed that that they even want to. When I first heard about this on the car radio, I wanted to pull over and cry. What kind of entitlement generation do we live in? There are people today who feel entitled to other people’s money simply because they want it. You have money and I don’t, therefore, I am entitled to your money.
In case you think it is unfair, I will show you how ungrateful you are. Don’t you realize that you only succeeded in this country because of your privilege? Don’t you see that the system is rigged against me? The system owes me compensation and the easiest way for me to collect is by taking it from you. Because it is not yours, it is mine. This is the ultimate entitlement generation.
It is this very thinking that motivates district attorneys across the United States to dismiss criminal charges against proven criminals for social justice reasons. This person is from a disenfranchised community. He suffered enough in his lifetime. His acts of crime were surely fueled by desperation. Besides, those from whom he stole don’t deserve all that money. They can afford to lose some. So why prosecute him?
This doesn’t cultivate responsibility. It only cultivates entitlement. Why should I go out and get a job and work for my money when you can work for it and I can take it? The prosecutors who “get it” will understand that you had it coming and I only took what was mine.
The Midrash (Tanchumah, Pekudei 7) tells us that when Moses collected funds and materials to build the tabernacle, he overheard Jews grumbling. Mark our words, they said, Moses will soon be rich. You think he will oversee all that gold and silver and won’t take any for himself?
For this reason, Moses offered a complete accounting of every ounce that he had collected. Once the tabernacle was completed, Moses detailed precisely what had been collected and what it was used for.
Human nature doesn’t change. The same allegations that people levy today were directed against Moses more than three thousand years ago. But how did Moses respond? He could have claimed entitlement. He had never taken a single coin for all his efforts. He paid for his own and his family’s expenses and drew no salary for his pains.
If people alleged that he was a thief, he could have dismissed them. Firstly, he could have said, how dare you accuse me after everything I have done for you? Secondly, he could have claimed that even if he had taken some money, it would have been his due after everything he had done for them.
He never said anything like that. Instead, he offered a full accounting. And you know why? Because it wasn’t his money. Period. End of story. If you want to be paid for your services, negotiate a legal contract. If you offered your services for free, you can’t levy a personal tax and raid other people’s coffers at will.
This is precisely the message that needs to be learned today. Yes, I feel sorry for you. You were so very frustrated by your dashed hopes because of the coffee giant’s mistake. But that doesn’t grant you entitlement to their money. It is theirs, not yours. What part of that equation did you not understand?
Railing against a problem won’t fix it. Offering a way to correct it might. So, let’s examine the cause.
There are two systems: The capitalist system says everything is for me. As much as I can get my hands on, is mine. The communist system says nothing is for me. Whatever the government thinks I need, they will give me, the rest belongs to the people. The capitalist system rewards initiative, but it encourages greed. The communist system bolsters collectivism, but it discourages initiative.
Then there is the Jewish system that has the strengths of both. It is capitalist in the sense that you toil and keep what you earned. On the other hand, you are responsible for your neighbor. You may keep only as much as you need, and you are tasked to view every penny above your needs as money that is not yours. It was entrusted to you to distribute to those in need.
The drawback in this system is that it is not enforceable. Who can tell you where your needs end and where your luxuries begin? One person’s need is another person’s luxury. The system depends on honesty and good conscience. At the end of the day, you need to be able to look in the mirror and say before G-d that you honestly need the funds you keep for yourself and withhold from charity.
It is in this grey zone where we can easily slip up. We must constantly weigh and measure to know whether we have kept too much or just enough. Taking even one penny too much is unacceptable. Yet only we can be the judge.
This is where entitlement begins. It never begins with other people’s money. It always begins with our own money. When we feel entitled to too much of our money and are loathe to part with it lest we might need it one day, we eventually feel entitled to other people’s money. First, we withhold money we owe to others. And eventually claim other people’s money for ourselves.
When we hear stories like the one that went viral about Tim Horton, we must step back and self-examine. Am I overly entitled or am I honest with myself? Do I claim everything I have earned including money that I ought to give away? It is a slippery slope, but only if we begin the slide. Dig in your spikes and stay at the top. Don’t begin the “roll,” because we never roll “up.” We always roll down and we won’t “win.”