It seems absurd to imagine someone trading something so valuable for something so temporary. Why would Esau make sure a bad trade? Why do generation after generation of intelligent adults make similar decisions every day? It’s simple. We allow our out-of-control fleshly desires to overwhelm our better sense. We allow our egos, instead of our spirit guided by the holy Spirit, to drive our desires.
In the first letter of John, the apostle writes… “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world” (1 John 2:16).
The world offers to fulfill all our cravings. “I’m hungry and I want it. I’m lonely, so I need that person., I’m empty, so maybe that thing will satisfy me.” The world offers substitutes for (or counterfeits of) real things: physical pleasure, material things, pride in what we have and what we do. Before long, our sinful desires for the counterfeits of this world lure us into short-term decisions with long-term consequences.
You unquestionably know lots of people whose lives have been ruined by unchecked and untamed desires. It could be the person who buys what she can’t afford, charging and borrowing her way into final fiscal destruction. Each purchase makes her feel good about herself for a fleeting moment; she can wear the latest styles and have the newest phone and iGadget. But one day she wakes up, buried alive under a mountain of debt.
If could be the guy who knows looking at pornography isn’t good for his spiritual life or relationships. But when he’s tempted with the opportunity, his immediate desire overwhelms his desire to obey God. Before long, what seemed harmless enough at first becomes deadly. He’s trapped and believes he can’t stop. He had no idea that taking one drink of porn poison would lead to an addiction that slowly kills his soul.
You probably know a young woman who wanted to honour God and her future husband by saving herself for marriage. But since she thought she loved the guy she was dating, and because she didn’t want to lose him, she compromised her values by giving her body to him. After her “true love” got what he wanted, he eventually dumped her and moved on to other conquests. At first she felt horrible, but eventually she decided, “Since I’m not a virgin anymore, why shouldn’t I find some comfort wherever I can? And over the years, she accumulated sinful sexual memories, ones that still cloud her marriage and haunt her with regret.
You might know the guy who told himself he’d provide a “better life” for his family., (Have you ever noticed how ‘better life’ never means more time, deeper relationships, or spiritual intimacy? A better life generally means giving them things that won’t last and don’t really matter). Armed with good intentions, he threw himself into his career and did whatever it took — sixty-hour weeks, travelling half the month, working at home on weekends. Then one day his company downsized and he found himself looking for a new job. Worse still, he woke up to a failed marriage and children he still sees but doesn’t really know.
What have there people and millions of others like you and me done to ourselves? We’ve traded the ultimate (God’s blessings) for the immediate (our selfish desires). We’ve given away our birthright for a stupid bowl of stew.
If trading your birthright for a bowl of stew seems farfetched, then let me share another example.
In 1894, the US mint in San Francisco produced only twenty-four coins, relatively few for its time but certainly staggering when we consider the millions of coins produced by the American mints now. The superintendent of the San Francisco mint then was a man named John Dagget. Knowing the rarity of the few coins produced that year, Dagget acquired several and gave three of the dimes to his daughter, Hallie. “Hold on to these, my dear, and they’ll be worth much more than ten cents someday,” he told her.
On her way home from her father’s office, young Hallie did what many kids would do. She stopped in her favourite soda shop and exchanged what would become one of the world’s rarest coins for a scoop of her favourite ice cream. Almost a century later, in 1981, the coin surfaced and sold for $34,100. Today only ten 1894-S Barber dimes are known to exist, and they’re considered one of the most sought after and valuable coins in the world. Poor Hallie’s scoop of vanilla ended up costing her much more than she could ever imagine.
We would be wise to embrace the principle of delayed gratification when to comes to our finances, not just our dimes. Because of a spirit of entitlement, it’s common for teenagers (and adults still in adolescence) to believe they really need to latest iPhone, iPod, or iPad. (If their iPad doesn’t have 5G, they need counselling to overcome their childhood abuse.) Some teens actually believe they need (or deserve) a thirty-thousand dollar car. Or a debt-ridden twenty-year-old believes a spring break to Cancun is a necessity. Or the young couple just out of college feels it is their right to live in a house as nice as their parent’s home.
Like Esau and Hallie we often trade the ultimate (our birthright as believers) for the immediate. We would do well to remind ourselves … “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” (1 John 2:16-17).