Have you ever written one of those angry e-mails in the heat of the moment that you later lived to regret? At the time, it’s as if you can’t write fast enough–you have all these brilliantly searing statements guaranteed to put the offender in their place, and you can’t WAIT to nail them.
The funny thing is that even while you’re writing the e-mail, you probably know you’ll regret it later. But you just can’t help yourself! There is only one thing that will satisfy that desire for revenge and vindication, and you’ll do whatever it takes to fulfill that need.
Well it is in those moments, when I trade the riches of my honor and integrity for a petty, short-lived treasure, that I find myself relating profoundly to Esau. For years I read the story of that stupid brute who was so hungry that he sold his birthright for a bowl of soup. And I always thought, “What an idiot! I mean seriously, who would do that?”
But I do the same thing every day! For temporary satisfaction, for instant gratification, I sell the birth right I have in Christ. I sell my freedom and my integrity, all for a lousy bowl of soup.
With that in mind, I thought I’d list a few of the “soups” you might encounter in the buffet line of life, as well as the birthright you forfeit upon tasting them. Hopefully it will help you as much as it’s helped me in identifying my inner Esau:
The Soup: Seeking the praise of Man–Sometimes we need a self-esteem boost, and we’ll do whatever it takes to get it. Maybe we’ll complain about how ugly or stupid we are until someone intervenes with, “Aww that’s not true. You’re beautiful! You’re so smart!” Or maybe we’ll go to greater extremes, changing the way we dress or the way we interact with people, so that we can garner the attention we need.
The Birthright: When we run to others for security, instead of depending on God, then we forfeit our identities in Christ. Christ has set us free from needing Man’s approval, but when we seek attention from others then we place ourselves back in that bondage. We also risk forfeiting our modesty if we choose to dress or act in a way that will draw guys’ attention.
The Soup: Building ourselves up at someone else’s expense–We always want to seem like we are in the know and that we have it all together. This often seems easiest to achieve by tearing others down through gossip, or even saying hurtful things directly to their face. Sometimes telling someone off can feel awfully satisfying in the moment.
The Birthright: When doing this, you forfeit your integrity, your reputation, and your relationship with the person you are tearing down. You might feel better in the short-term, but the long-term damage is sometimes irreparable.
The Soup: Sexual intimacy outside of marriage–We’ve all been there before. It’s late at night and your boyfriend is really attractive and you’ve been kissing a lot and you want to go further and further. You know you’ll regret it in the morning, but you have to have that pleasure now.
The Birthright: When you partake of this soup, you forfeit your modesty, your purity, and most of all your relationship with your boyfriend. Your are planting seeds of destruction into your relationship because you are trading away the respect, self-control, and God-honoring love that a Christ-centered relationship require.
The Soup: Shopping–I know I talk about this a lot, but it’s something that God’s been convicting me about lately so it’s at the forefront of my mind. But oftentimes we buy things simply to make ourselves feel better–if I don’t have these shoes NOW, if I don’t have that iPod NOW, then I won’t be happy until I do. So we buy things to temporarily fill a void.
The Birthright: There are a lot of things you can forfeit here, depending on what your particular shopping vice may be. First and foremost, you are forfeiting your contentment in Christ, and replacing that relationship with something material. You are depending on what you own or how you look to satisfy your needs. But you are also forfeiting the opportunity to bless others. When we use our money extravagantly, then we take money away from the church and from the needy. That is not to say that you should never buy yourself something nice, but if this becomes an addictive habit, then it can drain your financial resources very quickly, and prevent you from using your money in God-honoring ways.
So there you have it–four of the soups we hastily consume, and the birthrights we subsequently forfeit. I’m sure you can think of others. But the most salient reality about all of these soups is that they each constitute a form of idolatry. We choose something immediate over God’s long-term blessings, and in doing so we choose to worship and follow something other than Him.
So the next time you read the story of Jacob and Esau, just remember that we’ve all got a little bit of Esau inside of us. The idea of trading a bowl of soup for an entire birthright may seem pretty ludicrous, but keep that in mind when you’re tempted to trade the birthright bought for you in Christ. To do so is the definition of insanity.