4 minute read

Porn is Not Your Problem. Entitlement Is.

Last Updated: July 30, 2015

Noah Filipiak

Noah Filipiak is a pastor and the author of Beyond the Battle: A Man's Guide to his Identity in Christ in an Oversexualized World (Zondervan)He also hosts The Flip Side Podcast. If you desire to be free from lust, porn, and fantasy, you can join Noah and his team in an online small group at Beyond the Battle, or get the leader guide to run your own group.

The greatest enemy of your marriage is not pornography. It is not lust. It is not fantasy.

It is entitlement.

PORN ISN'T YOUR PROBLEM

My wife and I were both virgins when we got married. My church upbringing and sexual purity books I read in college told me that if I saved myself sexually until marriage, God would bless my marriage and specifically, my sex life. (Another way of saying “bless” would be: “everything you desire,” a la Psalm 37:4.)

A deal was struck with God: I do my part. He does his.

This is entitlement: the feeling that I deserve something, that I’ve earned something. And if God doesn’t do his part, then I can take things into my own hands.

A lot of Christians are unintentionally raised to think God owes them something if they do things His way. It’s how a lot of our spiritual life is motivated and why we feel so much heartbreak when our prayers don’t get answered. When God lets us down.

The irony of this is that the foundational step to receiving the gospel of Jesus is to admit I deserve nothing. In fact, to be more precise, I deserve hell. Apart from Jesus’ saving work on my behalf, I am a rebellious sinner who deserves to be in hell this very moment.

I’m not using hell as a doom-and-gloom threat here. I’m using it to show how far we really are from God’s holy standard and that realizing this causes a drastic change in our posture toward our spouses.

Entitlement says I am worthy.

The gospel says I am unworthy.

These are two very different postures.

The False Cure of “Kickback Love”

At the root of almost all marriage problems are unmet expectations. And sadly, the foundation of most of the popular marriage books and counseling strategies out there only reinforce the entitlement we feel toward having these expectations met. These books sell in droves because we typically see instantaneous results, thinking we’ve finally figured out the formula to get our spouse to do what we want. But these results seldom last and by nature do more harm than good in the long run.

Some marriage books will go as far as calling the expectations we have for our spouse “needs.”

How many times have you read a marriage book with your spouse or gone to counseling together, only to be disillusioned and frustrated later? Only to feel like you are the good spouse? You are the one doing what the marriage books say when your spouse seems unchanged.

These marriage strategies are based on “kickback love”: I want my spouse to fulfill my “needs,” so I figure out what my spouse wants me to do for them. I don’t do it for them because I want to serve them, I do it because if I do, it will soften them up and then they’ll do for me what I want.

The ultimate motivation in this approach is selfishness. Ironic, sad and sobering that 1 Corinthians 13:5 tells us that love is not self-seeking, yet this strategy of selfishness is the go-to fix for today’s marriages.

As soon as I expect a kickback, I build a scoreboard. I’m doing my part, but my spouse isn’t doing theirs. What gives?

And if these are needs that my spouse is depriving me of, then I have no choice but to look to get these needs met elsewhere. In fact, it’s like my spouse pushed me to it.

Mercy is the True Cure

“Mercy” is something you don’t deserve. It is completely unmerited.

As Christians, we have incredible worth as sons and daughters of God. But who supplies this worth? God does. Are we worthy of this apart from God’s grace? No.

And how unworthy are we? Well, how big is the divide between us and our Holy Almighty God?

That’s how unworthy we are.

If there were a scoreboard in our marriage, our side would light up as negative-infinity.

If I realize I’m a sinner and that I deserve hell, but that Jesus gave me life instead, it should change everything about the way I view my marriage.

It’s okay to pray for your spouse to change. But the prayer you really need to focus on is that you will change. Pray that you will realize that your spouse will never be able to meet your needs, no matter how smooth or rocky your marriage is. To think otherwise is to make your spouse into a god, which will have disastrous results. Only God can meet your needs!

Your spouse may never change.

If you’re living entitled, you’ll leave. Or you’ll shake your fists at God. Or you’ll continue living in the prison of a marriage you wish you could get out of because you deserve better.

But has God still been merciful to you?

If you have the mercy of the gospel, you’ll realize all of your needs have already been met in Jesus and whether single, happily married, or unhappily married, there is nothing more on earth you could possibly need than this mercy.

In fact, you’ll realize that everything you already have is a mercy you don’t deserve. When you deserve hell in this moment, you become a lot of appreciative of the coffee you’re drinking and the chair you’re sitting in. Even bad coffee is better than hell! In fact, that coffee and that chair are unimaginable gifts for people like us, people who deserve hell but have been given so much mercy instead.

But it’s not only the coffee and the chair.

It’s also your spouse.

Your spouse is a gift of mercy from God that you don’t deserve.

Treat them as such.

And be freed from the endless treadmill of unmet expectations.

The question isn’t if your spouse will change or not, the question is, will you allow the mercies of Jesus to change you?

  • Comments on: Porn is Not Your Problem. Entitlement Is.
    1. Joe Lopes on

      Excellent word! I passed it on to all my friends.

      Reply
    2. Xavier on

      For an otherwise engaging and insightful writer, Noah, you nevertheless devolve into simplistic platitudes by the end of your essay: “Only God can meet your needs!” Correct. But doesn’t God meet our needs through the people and situations in our lives? Ergo…

      “Your spouse is a gift of mercy from God that you don’t deserve.” Might that battle-axe not be rather the spouse one actually DESERVES (for past misdeeds in the romantic/relational department? Even so, must it be a life sentence?

      Noah, there is much of value in your thoughtful piece, and yes, we have all gone astray and ultimately deserve condemnation; and, yes, nothing compares to the mercies of the Lord, thanks to which even the wicked, upon repentance, may hope for redemption from that fate. However, we do not just sit and await the Second Coming. We must live, in the meantime, and put up with “quarrelsome, complaining (wives)” (or abusive husbands, for others). So, which way to the desert? Best wishes, all the same, Noah.

      Reply
      • Noah Filipiak on

        Hi Xavier, thank you for your great question of clarification. I think it’s important to understand my line of “Only God can meet your needs” with the rest of its context:

        “Pray that you will realize that your spouse will never be able to meet your needs, no matter how smooth or rocky your marriage is. To think otherwise is to make your spouse into a god, which will have disastrous results. Only God can meet your needs!”

        My purpose there was to show that another human being cannot be God for us. In this blog post I’m referring to our spouse, but this would also be true for single people or for non-marriage situations. For example, someone’s boss cannot be their god, or a fan base cannot be god for a musician or an athlete, or the popular crowd can’t be god for the middle schooler, etc. With the point being, all of these people will let us down when we put our identity in them and/or when we look to them to validate us. Whereas only God can truly validate us. Only God’s acceptance and approval of us will never dissipate and never fail. So in this sense I would disagree with your statement that God meets our needs through other humans. I think yes, God meets our needs for community, discipleship, fellowship, etc. through the Church and it’s up to us to put ourselves in the path of God’s resources there to have those needs met. But those needs are different than our ultimate need for validation, acceptance and approval. I do not believe God gave us marriage to give us these things; otherwise single people could never experience them. And I really do believe that when married people look for these things in their marriages, it’s like looking for them from an idol, and it’s a main reason entitlement / expectations go unmet. Whether you have an abusive spouse or a really good spouse, your spouse will never give you what God can give you. I’m not setting up a formula that someone should never leave an abusive spouse, I think those decisions are made on case by case basis’s with people close to the situation, but I think a relevant point to bring out is that throughout Scripture we find many people who had hardly any “earthly needs” supplied to them by God, yet their “ultimate need” was still met in God’s love, acceptance, validation and approval of them. People like Jeremiah, Isaiah, Elijah and Paul come to mind. Jesus is also a great example of this. These people went through tons of earthly suffering that God did not alleviate, yet they were still secure in God’s love for them, they did not doubt God’s goodness or sovereignty, and they did not allow their lack of earthly needs to push them to fulfill these needs sinfully on their own.

        I hope this helps Xavier. Please know I don’t say it to be combative (as tone can’t always be felt online). I hope this is helpful to bring out my point further, I really appreciate your question. I think you ask a great question of clarification that is very helpful to this conversation. Feel free to follow up with further thoughts / questions. Blessings brother.

    3. A Load of BS .... sorry. on

      This is why people are leaving religion and the churches in droves. It is one guilt trip after the other. Heck, the Bible condemns people from birth with “original” sin. So apparently, I am supposed to love some God who makes me a sinner from birth after I was not even asked to be born in the first place? What on earth makes you think a loving God would do that?

      I pray you to not get much of a chance to tell people they deserve hell. Amazing how the fire and brimstone pastors have never figured out their tactics are the ones that separate people from Christ. Believe or suffer an agonizing eternity burning is not really conducive to making anyone truly love Christ. What on earth makes you think a loving God would burn his children for forever? Would you burn your child for forever? I doubt it.

      Also, let us get really realistic, all this nonsense that Jesus can fulfill everything a person needs is simply nonsense. Tell that to the 3,000 people today who died of starvation. Tell that to the person crying themselves to sleep because they are lonely. Tell that to the person dying of a painful disease. Tell that to the person who is alone and just wants to talk to someone. It is no slight on Jesus when I say that. It is mankind that is too dump to move past being passive victims to proactive people that love their neighbors by helping to solve the problems of their neighbors. Sitting there and saying Christ is all you need is tantamount to being a lazy person. I imagine Christ saying … hey … get up and help your fellow man!!! Instead of telling that single person the BS of Christ is all you need —- help that single person find someone. Instead of telling that hungry person Christ is all you need —- help feed that person.

      I believe in mercy and most certainly in Christ, but this nonsense of fundamentalists has to stop. People are not stupid. Keep on beating people into the ground. Scaring them with hell. Telling them that their needs are not true needs. You will lose more souls than you can imagine. Instead, why don’t you be realistic. You better start being realistic because more and more people are not believing anything at all anymore. Remember the saying “you reap what you sow” —- well that applies to fundamentalist Christians just as much as “unworthy” sinners and boy, as we have seen lately Christianity is reaping what it has sown to the point people are leaving in droves.

      Reply
      • Noah Filipiak on

        Hi there, I appreciate your passion for this. For a good chunk of my time as a pastor and as a serious Bible reader, I wanted to prove that hell wasn’t real. People like Rob Bell and others were making it hip and cool for hell not to be real and honestly the idea of my non-Christian friends and the scores of non-believers around the world not going to hell was very relieving for me. And more than this, I did question the character of a God who would “send people to hell”, versus one who didn’t send anyone to God. But I wanted to know what the Bible said about this. Knowing what I wanted the Bible to say about it, I tried hard to read the text as non-bias as I could. This blog post of mine is a reflection of some of the things I discovered and how it helped shape my faith, I do hope it’s helpful to you as well: http://www.atacrossroads.net/2-unexpected-ways-believing-in-hell-reinvigorated-my-faith/

        Outside of that, I’ll try to respond individually to points you made in your comment, as I do appreciate your honesty and willingness to bring up these important points.

        These things you are struggling through or have struggled through are significant and important. You do start with some assumptions though, such as: “I determine what God should be like”, and “I know how a holy God should interact with sinful humanity.”

        One thing I can tell you is no one will stand before God someday on their judgement day and say to him “You made me sin, it’s your fault I’m going to hell” just like a serial killer wouldn’t say it’s the judge’s fault that he gets the death sentence or a life sentence for his sentencing. I would try to not get hung up on the doctrine of original sin or God’s sovereignty, but instead just try to see things as they are. We ARE sinners, we CAN’T save ourselves. However we got here is sort of irrelevant (for this part of the conversation), what is very relevant is that God didn’t give up on us, but offers to save us. We can dwell on the bad news part of it, but why would we do that when the good news part of it is the best news in the universe?

        I think with this whole conversation, and I know this is hard to swallow, is to realize that what you think or what I think doesn’t really matter — what I mean is — what we think does not actually change who God is or how things are…So if God really is holy and we really are sinful and deserving hell and God really does offer his mercy to us, we should humble ourselves, repent, and receive his mercy, and be very thankful for it.

        Sure Rob Bell (or you or whomever) might be right and we might all go to heaven. That’d be great. I hope that happens.

        But I have no ground to stand on to believe that. What God told me in the Bible is that that is not the case. So what if the Bible actually is right and a whole bunch of people are going to hell if they don’t seek forgiveness from Jesus? Why would it be unloving to communicate this truth with people? If Rob Bell and the universalists are wrong, and I put my hope in their opinions, then I and many others I neglected are in serious trouble.

        Now I don’t think this should be the motivation for people to accept Christ, I think the motivation is to have a relationship with God. Why would a person want to be in heaven where they will be with God forever if they don’t want to be with him now? The gospel is not fire insurance, that is for sure. If you notice the wording in my blog post, I was not using hell to scare anyone or threaten anyone, I was saying I know I, Noah Filipiak, deserve hell and that realizing this is incredibly freeing because this is what allows me to savor the riches of God’s mercy. That’s very different than the fire and brimstone you are accusing me of. If you want to tell me I don’t deserve hell, it’s not personal but I won’t really care / give what you say about my standing before God much weight, because the Bible tells me I deserve hell, so I’m living by that.

        But “hell” really isn’t the focus or the transformational piece; God’s wrath and judgement and simultaneously, our guilt, is. You say you believe in mercy and most certainly in Christ, but how can you appreciate mercy or how can it have any transforming effect on you if you don’t also believe in God’s wrath and justice? If we’ve never done anything wrong and don’t deserve any punishment from a holy God, why would his choice to offer us mercy instead have any affect on us? If a guilty convicted serial killer just got the death sentence, and then the judge showed him mercy and told him he could go home instead, his life would be incredibly altered from this; imagine the flood of relief, wonder, and appreciation. But if a convicted serial killer knew he never faced any sentencing and the judge told him he could go he’d just think “what’s the big deal, of course I just get to go.” There is a huge difference here.

        There are some big problems with believing in universalism and also claiming Christianity, namely: why would Jesus have came and died if everyone was going to be saved anyway? Seems like an awful lot of pain and inconvenience to go through for nothing. But more than this, with universalism, God would no longer be just. Using a human court analogy, would you want judges in America who are okay with rape, serial killing, child molestation, and sex trafficking? When these criminals stand guilty before these judges, the judges just say “hey no big deal fella, let’s go get a burger together.” No this would be an awful, unsafe and incredibly frightening society to live in. We want just judges. But the point is not about what we want, it’s what God is. And God is holy. And he is just. We have to remember we are created in God’s image, he is not created in ours. He creates us, we don’t create him. So a holy God is going to be wrathful against sin. Do you really want a God who isn’t wrathful against child molestation or rape? That God certainly wouldn’t be holy.

        As far as Jesus’ fulfilling everything a person needs, I’ll refer you to what I wrote to Xavier in a previous comment and I hope it’s helpful to you as well:
        “I think a relevant point to bring out is that throughout Scripture we find many people who had hardly any “earthly needs” supplied to them by God, yet their “ultimate need” was still met in God’s love, acceptance, validation and approval of them. People like Jeremiah, Isaiah, Elijah and Paul come to mind. Jesus is also a great example of this. These people went through tons of earthly suffering that God did not alleviate, yet they were still secure in God’s love for them, they did not doubt God’s goodness or sovereignty, and they did not allow their lack of earthly needs to push them to fulfill these needs sinfully on their own.”

        In fact as I go through life and suffer myself, and meet those who suffer, and help those who suffer, I think this is one of the most powerful things about Jesus. It is also one of the strongest points in the New Testament letters, letters written to Christians who were being oppressed, killed and tortured for their faith. That Jesus trumps all these things. While part of bringing his Kingdom to this earth (Matthew 6:10) is to help alleviate this earthly suffering as we are able to, Jesus himself tells us we will have suffering in this world that won’t go away, but we should take heart because a day is coming when there will be no more suffering, that the “order of things” in this world is temporary and passing away: John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” & Revelation 21:4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

        I definitely agree we as Christians should help feed that starving person, and trust me, many many many of us are doing just that. But Jesus is still all that starving person needs. That food won’t be Jesus for them. What is better: to live with an empty belly but with Jesus and to die of starvation with Jesus or to live with a full belly but no Jesus and to die with a full belly without Jesus? The answer to that is pretty clear, in fact Jesus makes this exact point in Luke 16:19-31. It’s not a dichotomy though: “the gospel” is not simply believing in Jesus so we don’t go to hell. That’s an impartial gospel falsely taught by many, which I sense you have had a lot of damaging exposure to. The gospel is salvation from God’s wrath through Jesus’ substitution for our sins on the cross, but it also brings us into Jesus’ Kingdom, a kingdom where Jesus is our King and Lord and we are to love the poor and love our neighbor and obey all that Jesus commands as we learn to trust him deeper and deeper. There’s no need to swing to one end of the pendulum or the other when Jesus and the entire Bible thoroughly teach both the doctrine of salvation through Jesus’ mercy as well as the Kingdom commands to care for the poor. It’s a both/and not an either/or.

        I hope this is helpful to you. I’ll be honest, the tone of your comment felt very combative. I’m not sure that you were asking your questions because you wanted to further discuss them or because you wanted a space to make accusations. In either case, I hope that my reply is helpful to you and that you allow the Scriptures to marinate in you and allow you to see a bigger and fuller picture of God. If you feel you can converse in a constructive and inquisitive rather than an accusational way, I’d love to continue this conversation with you. I’d love to hear your thoughts and any follow-up questions you have.

      • Xavier on

        You blaspheme the person of the Messiah – shame on you – by spouting your profanity in the same breath as his title. It was hard to make it through the rest of your diatribe after that, especially on a Christian forum. Whatever the case, you’d do well to reflect on the various valid points Noah brought up in his excellent response to you. (Hey, Noah, thanks for the response to my own comment and for mentioning me in your reaction to the above! Btw, things are improving between the missus and me.)

    4. Greg on

      The bigger issue is that we, as believers this side of heaven, cannot line up God’s promises, that do, in fact, include the blessing you’re referring to (and what some pastors call “tension points”) with reality. Think of it as the “Unsolved Mysteries” of the Christian faith:

      http://www.gregdonner.org/thoughts/thoughts15.html

      We’re very, very good at discrediting and brushing off things we simply can’t explain in Scripture or making excuses for them with Christianese instead of giving simple, truthful answers of “I can’t explain that, and I struggle with it.”

      That level of honesty is sorely lacking in the church at large, and IMO part of why persecution is becoming so rampant.

      Reply
      • Noah Filipiak on

        Thanks Xavier! And thanks for listening. And praise God that things are improving in your marriage!! I will pray for you!

      • Angry Reader on

        Whew, I’m glad you inserted the “Get Out of Your Marriage” card — the concept of “abuse” that of course justifies bailing out of the marriage with God’s and the church’s blessing — “I’m not setting up a formula that someone should never leave an abusive spouse, I think those decisions are made on case by case basis’s with people close to the situation…”

        Abortion is a “personal” decision to be made by a woman after consulting with her physician, yes? Sad, but sometimes necessary. NO!

        Similarly, leaving the marriage when there is “abuse” is a personal decision to be made by a wife after consultation with her pastor, and the two of them get to decide what’s a sufficient level of “abuse.” Sad but sometimes necessary. NO!

    5. Andrew on

      Noah, I want you to know that you wrote a great article, and one the church needs to hear. The enemy uses entitlement to convince us to sin. My spouse is a gift from God, and no spouse is ever a return for past misdeeds in relationships. God has always wanted the best for every marriage. If a partner is untrue in the marriage, it certainly wasn’t because of God.
      And thank God that Christ is all that we need. When there are 3000 people dying from starvation around the world, it’s because of a lack of Christ’s work.
      Mission work has shown that to be evident for centuries. When people do mission work and try to alleviate poverty and suffering by simply giving them their physical needs, it only ends up in unhealthy dependency on the mission worker and organization. It doesn’t stop the poverty. However, when mission workers focus on taking Christ to a nation, and their efforts in poverty alleviation are based on Christ’s work in their own lives, and they focus on empowering people to solve problems on their own, the nation is changed. The reason: because they focused on proclaiming Christ’s work and not relying on their own human efforts. Christ is truly all you need. All efforts to serve people must be a response to what Christ has done in our life. When people are changed spiritually, the rest of our needs will follow. That is why Jesus tells us to seek his kingdom first, and all these other things will be added as well.
      I pray MANY people hear this message.

      Reply
      • Xavier on

        I see you don’t agree with me that a spouse might be part of the punishment for a person’s previous promiscuity… Well, given my irritation with you-know-who when I wrote that, because of her temper tantrums and sharp tongue, I admit that’s a facile way to make sense of the situation, but I also admit I could be wrong on that score. Anyway, suffice it to say that sometimes I wake up GRUMPY, and other times I let her sleep. :)

      • Noah Filipiak on

        Thanks Andrew! The gospel is definitely meant to be holistic, both in missions and in marriage! Jesus does more than save us from our sins and gets us to heaven (he definitely does that!); he also is all-sufficient. While I am very passionate about doing biblical social justice (helping the poor etc), it must be done along with the message of Christ or you are only helping people in the very short-term. If a house in the suburbs is the end goal for helping someone in poverty, we have really sold them short on what is going to give them their hope, peace and joy in life, and in eternal life!

    6. Stuart on

      Very good post Noah. I commend you on how you have handled the comments with a heart felt response. Kudos brother.

      Reply
    7. MJ on

      Thanks for saying this! Great truth here! Sharing this post with the Future Marriage University (FMU) community at https://www.facebook.com/FMUniversity. No reason wise individuals should wait until marriage to learn this stuff! Especially ones waiting for marriage, so they can finally have guilt-free (porn-star) sex!

      Curiously it reminds me of this post written to unmarrieds along the same lines. http://students.faithoncampus.com/if-you-only-want-the-sex-then-dont-get-married/

      Reply

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