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)
It is 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).
Like 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 NLT)
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 blessings.
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 birthright…
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 newsletter, andScriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, withAnswers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.