In pursuit of immediate pleasure, people trade the ultimate for the expendable. Andy Stanley (pastor and Bible teacher) describe this phenomenon in the biblical story of Jacob and Esau. If you are not familiar with the story, Jacob and Esau were twin brothers. Esau was the oldest, born minutes before his younger brother, Jacob. I’ve been told that the younger brothers are often jealous of their older siblings, which was certainly the case in this story. Esau was a man’s man, while younger Jacob was more a mama’s boy.
During this time in history, the firstborn son had extreme advantages. He had what’s known as the birthright. Upon the father’s death, the firstborn received twice the inheritance of any of his siblings. He also became the judge (or executor) of the father’s estate. Throughout his life, the older brother lived with advantages and favour simply because he was born first. You can imagine how this could get under the skin of the younger brother.
Well, with these two guys, the scene went down something like this … “One day when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau arrived home from the wilderness exhausted and hungry. Esau said to Jacob, “I’m starved! Give me some of that stew!” “All right,” Jacob replied, “but trade me your rights as the firstborn son.” “Look, I’m dying of starvation!” said Esau. “What good is my birthright to me now?” (Genesis 25:29-32 NLT)
The conflict seems very basic, a temporary physical appetite battling an eternal familial blessing. Esau, the older brother, has been out hunting and works up a huge appetite. Perhaps his journey home took longer than he expected and his stomach is long past growling. He’s not just hungry. He’s HUNGRY. When he sees Jacob cooking some stew, Esau demands some lunch.
Suddenly, the younger brother has the advantage, perhaps for the first time ever. I can imagine Jacob, sensing he has the upper hand, thinking, “I’ve got you now. All those years that you picked on me, all those times you don’t let me play with your friends, all those times you outshined me … now you’re going to get yours.”
Esau said something that’s funny to me. He whined, “Look,, I’m going to die if I don’t get something to eat.” Just in case you’re tempted to believe him. Let’s tell it like it is. He was being a big baby, a drama king, an entitled brat. Esau wasn’t about to die. He was just hungry and was used to having food the moment he wanted something to eat.
Jacob corners his brother and strikes a deal. “You want some of this delicious, hot beef stew, with your favourite carrots and tomatoes? Then it’s going to cost you. If you give me your birthright, I’ll give you some stew.”
And that’s when Esau makes the worst trade of his life. Esau trades the ultimate (his birthright) for the immediate (a bowl of stew). In the end, he will not be able to put a price on what he pays for a simple meal.
You might ask, “Who in the world would do something as stupid as trade their birthright for a bowl of stew?
If you think about it, you already know the answer.
We, as believers, do it every single day.
More next time – Part Two