Yesterday morning before work I was reading my Bible, and I came upon the familiar story of Esau selling his birthright to his brother, Jacob:
“Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.” ~ Genesis 25:29-34
Every time I used to read this passage, I laughed. I thought Esau was crazy to give away something so important as his birthright for something as simple and temporary as a bowl of stew. It’s not as though there was a famine and food was inaccessible – Esau was simply reacting emotionally and living with his focus on the present (“I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?”, Genesis 25:32). His action was ridiculous, and we consider him foolish – and indeed, he was.
How could someone give up something so important for something so temporary?
Reading this passage yesterday, however, convicted me. Am I not so often the same way?
Many (including myself for so long) reject the importance and significance of the Gospel for the alternative of “living life to the fullest” in their own sin (Romans 1:21, 28, 32). We want to be in charge of our own lives, and we’ll reject God’s gift of salvation for temporary pleasure. How sad is that?
But it’s not just that. Christians, how often do we neglect studying (not just reading, but actually studying) the Scripture, communing with God through prayer, or memorizing His Word? What about choosing not to take the opportunity to witness to a friend or acquaintance when the situation presents itself? We can try to justify our actions all we want – too busy, forgot, tired, didn’t want to offend, etc. – but the truth is, when we refuse to follow Christ, push aside spiritual disciplines, or neglect to share the Gospel message, and choose other insignificant matters in their place, we are pushing aside what is of eternal importance and benefit for something short-lived and temporary.
We become no better than foolish Esau, and yet that is precisely how we perceive ourselves.
I love how Paul addresses this attitude we are so quick to have:
“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” ~ Romans 2:1
The next time you see or hear of someone making foolish, short-sighted decisions, don’t let your reaction be to puff out your chest and think about how you would “never do such a foolish thing”.
Instead, reflect on your own life, ask God to show you your sin, and seek from God the strength to live a life that would bring Him glory and to point others to our patient and merciful Saviour.
Forsake what is fleeting, and center your focus on what is of the utmost importance.