A Meshach Moment

A zillion years ago, back when I was in Grade 10, my history teacher gave my class an assignment on ‘totalitarianism’. I’d just started it when I happened to encounter the husband of a friend of my mum’s. He was from Poland, he’d been in a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War and he was, so he feared, unable to return home because he’d be executed by the Soviet secret police. His hatred of both Germans and Russians was immense.

He asked about my homework. I told him and asked: ‘Would you say that it’s better to be without law than to endure a system like Stalinist Russia?’

Intense grey eyes suddenly bored into me. His answer was one I’ve never forgotten: ‘Any system of law, no matter how brutal, repressive or tyrannical, is better than none. When I was in the concentration camp, nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to the barbarity of the time between the Nazis leaving and the Russians arriving. Any system of law is better than anarchy.’

As I’ve recalled this thought over the years, I’ve realised it contains the essence of a truth Christians have largely forgotten.

Law is an aspect of God’s grace.

According to Vishal Mangalwadi, until the eighteenth century, Christians took this as self-evident. The gift of the Ten Commandments freed mankind from anarchy and lawlessness. Yet human nature tends to inveterate law-breaking and so we desire mercy, not strict justice.

By the nineteenth century, mercy was seen to embody God’s grace but justice fell under a cloud. Into the twentieth century, theology separated law from grace—and so Christian colleges dropped their law departments or, if they retained them, the colleges themselves became increasingly secularised.

Mangalwadi comments that believers in America are currently appalled that every ‘Christian’ president has appointed mostly atheists as Supreme Court judges. But he also comments there’s no one else to choose. Without law students at Christian campuses, there’s a lack of faith-professing lawyers.

Now you may wonder what this has to do with writing. Quite a lot.

When we separate law and grace—and make grace more important—it’s natural to consider law passé. We may not become completely lawless, we may not think ourselves above the law, but we certainly begin to feel and act entitled.

Christians are notorious for their off-hand attitude to copyright. We feel entitled to use what we want, without payment or permission, because other Christians should have given freely in the first place, but since they haven’t, they should exercise forgiveness if ever they discover our transgression.

We want free time from authors, editors, proofreaders or publishers who can help us get our book out. When the thought, ‘How can I give back?’ doesn’t even cross our minds, we’ve developed a sense of entitlement.

We don’t want to wait. We don’t want to become active in a writing community and learn to steward our talent, we just want the book out by the end of the year. As the L’Oreal ad says: because we’re worth it.

We want other authors to buy and recommend our books. But we don’t want to reciprocate, either because we don’t have time or can’t afford it or because theirs doesn’t interest us. When we forget Jesus’ golden rule, Do unto others as you’d want them to do unto you, we’ve succumbed to a sense of entitlement.

We want a publisher or distributor to do the marketing and promotion for us while we get on with the business we enjoy most—writing. We want to reap a harvest of reward but, to achieve that, we only want to sow the seed, we don’t want to water or weed, fertilise or prune. We want others to do that for us, without charge.

Fortunately, most writers I encounter don’t have extreme cases of entitlement. 

But take a look around at almost any representative of Generation Y, young adults aged 15 to 30. Here you’ll find serious entitlement. They’re entitled to use the law to perpetrate injustice; they’re entitled to turn up to work if they feel like it and be paid anyway; they’re entitled to a job that pays lots for little; they’re entitled to government benefits if they don’t like any jobs on offer; they’re entitled to live at home for nothing or to crash at a friend’s, chipping in when they have spare cash; they’re so entitled that they can act as drug couriers to another country and expect, when they’re caught breaking overseas law, that the government will rescue them; they’re so entitled that when parents or God don’t give them all they want when they want it, they feel desperately unloved.

It’s not entirely their fault: they—and we—live in a culture bombarding them with messages of entitlement. Even Christianity sends them. We have to take responsibility for the way we act as writers and project our expectations of entitlement onto the writing community and publishing industry.

More importantly we, as writers, need to consider how we talk to a culture like this. How do we communicate grace to a generation so entitled that law is irrelevant and grace is something to abuse, not appreciate?

I’m not really sure and, if you’ve got some ideas, I’d love to have your comments.

One essential sacrifice in Christian writing should be our sense of entitlement.

Our sense that God has given us this work and everyone should make way right now.  Our sense that people don’t appreciate we’ve been called for such a time as this and, maybe even God doesn’t, because He’s not opening doors for us.

Jon Walker talks about his anger, frustration and depression when God didn’t respond to his timetable. Eventually he obediently submitted, not because he wanted to, but because he’d exhausted every other possibility.

It was then he had a ‘Meshach moment’.

Meshach was faced with a totalitarian dictator. Confronted with an ancient version of Stalin, about to throw him into a fiery furnace, he said, ‘God may provide for me; he may not provide for me, but that doesn’t matter because he’s still my God and I’ll serve him no matter what.’ (Daniel 3:16–18, Jon Walker’s paraphrase).

In my wait to get my books out, I know God is leading me out of entitlement toward a ‘Meshach moment’. Actually, more like another ‘Meshach moment’. I’m a slow learner. I have to keep returning to that place of saying ‘no matter what’.

I know God has great plans for me… and maybe even for my books. And most of them will only come to pass when I fully let go of entitlement and let grace be grace.


  1. Great post and something we all need to remember. I suspect I am a slow learner too and need these sort of reminders.

    • Hi Dale,

      I need to remind myself, too! I find it’s something I seem to want to forget. That in being constantly bombarded with messages from the media that I’m worth it (which are, in a sense, true) that there’s a continual pull towards self-centredness.

  2. Alison Collins

    Without law there cannot be grace. I have also sometimes noticed with younger generation that they do not have a base assumption that they have to do something even if they don’t want to. I had a discussion with a year 5 boy recently who objected to being told he had to get on with his maths, on the grounds that he needed to talk about a difficult experience the day before. As to how to communicate that we should appreciate grace, I think there first needs to be a redefining of what grace is, as opposed to a free licence to do what one wants, which comes from a lack of underlying law, or government. Greater minds than mine will figure out how to do this! Alison

    • That’s a very good thought – ‘without law, there cannot be grace’.

      You know, I think it’s ok to have a conversation with a five year old along these lines. After all, five year olds are still working out that they are not the centre of the universe. I’m troubled by that generation of kids ten to twenty years older than this who still believe they’re the centre of the universe and that the world owes them simply because they exist.

      Their overall attitude belongs somewhere in another century to the worst of a degenerate and entitled aristocracy.

  3. Anne, you wrote:

    “Their overall attitude belongs somewhere in another century to the worst of a degenerate and entitled aristocracy.”

    That is insightful. Metaphorically, many of us believe we are actually princes or princesses — or at least heirs to such ‘nobility’. Perhaps this can be inferred from our obsession with geneaology and what we might just discover about our illustrious ancestors. :0)

    I guess my thought would be that we are all the servants of someone — so may it be the Rightful King! May we be granted commonsense, and a way to help the younger people whom we’ve mislead down a path of self-esteem and self-aggrandizement as the greatest goods (with sprinkles of altruism).


    • Ken Rolph

      Genealogy is a tricky business in Australia, Maria. If your family has been here long enough you will probably find people in your tree who were “picked to come to Australia by the best judges in England”, we we say. Or if free and more recent, some kind of refugee from some kind of situation. We get our sense of entitlement in spite of the fact that we are from dubious stock. It’s what we made of ourselves, so it really belongs to us. Law has not been a helpful influence on the development of Australia.

      • Very interesting history then, Anne! My knowledge is so limited, limited to films and a few (good) books.

      • Hi Ken,

        I’m not sure that you can say that “Australian royalty” have a sense of entitlement – more a tendency towards larrikinism and suspicion of authority. Not quite the same thing.

  4. Ken Rolph

    “live in a culture bombarding them with messages of entitlement”

    But only for some. Over the years I have considered the messages our culture sends me and come to the conclusion that I don’t exist.

    I didn’t get the $900 that the government supposedly sent everybody. If I make a contibution to my superannuation I don’t get the co-contribution. My work as a writer only generates “passive income” (Royalties/ELR/CAL). I’m not really a “working family”. I can’t do the crosswords on the back of holiday newspapers because I don’t recognise anyone in the row of well-known celebrities who are the clues. Politicians send personally addressed letters to tell me how they are implementing all the things which I worry about (like locking up boat people and building desalination plants). None of the letters have ever addressed a concern which I actually have. If I read the list of top rating TV programs I discover I don’t watch any of them. I would like to share the outrage over radio shock jocks, but I have never heard any of them, and never heard OF some of them. I record all TV programs I watch from commercial channels so as to skip through the ads. So I don’t know what it is I am worth.

    Overall I am a disgrace to my demographic. I would probably be cast into outer darkness if they did recognise me at all. Yet everyone wants to know me. I get people knocking on the door, ringing me up, sending me personal letters. They all have fabulous offers which will improve my life immensely. I hadn’t realised that I was entitled to all this.

    A local real estate agent rang to ask me if I wanted to sell my house. I made the offhand comment that I would probably sell it some time, but wasn’t thinking about doing it right away. She seemed to only hear the first part and promised to ring me back in a month. Which she did. I was more alert this time, and pointed out that I was on the Do Not Call register. She countered that she was operating under an exemption because we had an “ongoing relationship”. She was entitled to ring me up because she had rung me up before. I was apparently not entitled to have a say in the matter.

    She asked what I was doing with my mortgage. I said we owned our house. She then posed the compelling sales and marketing question, but what are you going to DO with it? I said that we were going to live in it and enjoy it. This seemed to stop her dead in her tracks, as if it was a concept she had never encountered before.

    I have learned that they stop calling back if you keep on hanging up on them. But I must have been born to early to get in on all this entitlement stuff. I don’t seem to be entitled to anything. I’m not even entitled to be left alone.

    • Hi Ken

      Obviously you do not belong to the entitled generation – this being confirmed by your copious examples. Of course, if there is an entitled generation, there must be a generation that is supposed to afford them this entitlement. We must be it!

      I hope you intend to use the stories of the “ongoing relationship” with your local real estate agent in your next book.

  5. Annie,
    I read your article on Law/Grace and its application to writing and greatly appreciated it. I have been trying to get the message over for years that law is not contrary to grace but one of its blessings. I remember preaching a sermon on it over 20 years ago. Very recently I taught that idea in a Bible study on Colossians 3. When I teach this I am usually greeted with blank looks! I become very disturbed when Christians seem to promote, or clearly do promote, the idea that law or rules are not for Christians. Thank you for the article.

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