We're all familiar with the story: Esau, famished from his hunt, sold his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew: "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 red 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?'" (Gen. 25:29-32 NLT)
apparent from this story that Esau lived in the here and now. He was
hungry. Starving. Famished. Convinced he was about to die. He was
focused on his physical discomfort, and without a single thought of the
future, he traded his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew and some
bread: "Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate
the meal, then got up and left." (Gen. 25:34a NLT).
Esau, we, too, can become obsessed with what is happening in the moment.
And why shouldn't we? A death in the family is a formidable
problem. That cancer diagnosis has very long term consequences.
The broken relationship will impact every part of your life.
The foreclosure on your home will affect all of your family.
We know that Esau would later regret his decision. If we fast
forward two chapters in the book of Genesis, we see another scene in the
life of Esau and Jacob. Jacob tricks Esau again, this time out of his
father's final blessing, and we see Esau exclaim: "No wonder his
name is Jacob, for now he has cheated me twice. First he took my rights
as the firstborn, and now he has stolen my blessing." (Gen. 27:36
When we put our focus only on our momentary circumstances,
even when those circumstances are, indeed, significant, we will, like
Esau, be reactionary in our decisions. Like him, we are at risk of
opening the door for regret.
Interestingly, Esau saw his hunger
as having long term consequences: "Look, I'm dying of
starvation!...What good is my birthright to me now?" (Gen. 32 NLT).
Though the Bible doesn't tell us when he had eaten his last meal, we can
know that if Esau had truly been at the point of death, he wouldn't have
been able to "arrive" home. He would have been too weak. Thus, by
focusing only on the problem, Esau's hunger mushroomed out of proportion
in his mind until eating became the only thing that was important to
him: "He showed contempt for his rights as the firstborn."
(Gen. 25:34 NLT).
The solution? "Don't be selfish; don't try
to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than
yourselves." (Phil. 2:3 NLT). It's truly as simple as that.
Focusing away from our own problems and looking instead to the needs of
others, as we are commanded to do in this text from Philippians 2, will
put things back into perspective. There is also the promise of blessing
when we focus on the needs of others instead of on our own needs:
"God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole
earth...God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy."
(Matt. 5:5,7 NLT).
In other words, when we focus on others, even
in the midst of our own looming problems, we can be assured that we will
not be selling our birthright. Rather, we will open the doors for
Interestingly, this is the way Jesus lived His life.
He had, indeed, significant circumstances. He was about to be crucified
and separated from His Father, yet the Bible records: "Because of
the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now
he is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne." (Heb.
12:2b NLT). By looking to the needs of others rather than focusing on
His own, He did not sell His birthright; rather, He ensured it. When
following Jesus' example by focusing on the needs of others rather than
on our own needs, we, too, will hold on to our birthright, and in the
end, we will be blessed; but by focusing on our own problems, no matter
how significant they may be, then we, like Esau, risk selling our
Think about it!
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author --
"Aboard God's Train -- A
Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer", Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet
Scriptural Nuggets, a
website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with
Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.