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Selling Out

Posted by Job on March 1, 2007

Selling Out 

Genesis 25:29-33:  And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint: and Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. 

What was the big deal about Esau’s selling his birthright to Jacob for a meal? In the Old Testament’s time being the first – born male carried great significance. The firstborn had the honor of carrying on the family name, control over the family’s land and finances, and virtually unchallengeable authority over the entire family (his brothers and sisters, their offspring, all of the workers and servants, and even his father’s wives including his own mother). In a large family with much wealth, a lot of land, and a prominent name, it was the next best thing to being a prince, and he gave up his privileged, powerful future in order to satisfy his appetite. 

It would have been one thing had Esau’s life or health – or that of a family member – been in danger, and he had given up so much as a result. Even then, he would have fallen short of having faith that God would deliver him and being obedient to his will, but at least it would have been understandable. But in this case, Esau was simply too arrogant and impatient to wait a little while, i.e. for his mother to prepare him a meal, his mother or father to tell Jacob to give him some food, for Jacob to relent, or to fix his own food. But no, Esau was the oldest, the firstborn, the hunter, his father’s favorite. He felt that he should have whatever he wanted when he wanted it, and he further revealed this behavior when he spurned his mother, his father, his tradition, his people, and his God by marrying heathen women. As a result, he allowed his opportunistic brother to take advantage of him due to character flaws that Paul discussed in Hebrews 12:16. 

Now Jacob’s act did not go unpunished, as Laban took advantage of him by tricking him into marrying Leah instead of Rachel. Yet, it was the will of God, for God chose Jacob over Esau because of Esau’s character flaws, and it was one of several times that God intervened to subvert inheritance custom to elevate his chosen (others included Joseph AND Judah over Reuben, David over his brothers, and Solomon over Adonijah). 

As bad as it was in a literal sense, it is even worse in the spiritual context that it represents. We are all children of God, heirs and co – heirs with Jesus. Therefore, we have eternal life in heaven and all power on Earth, God’s kingdom, as our inheritance, and we don’t even have to be first – born males in wealthy influential families to claim it! Yet we are so willing to throw it all away over trivialities.  

Now I don’t mean to minimize life and its many trials and challenges, especially for true Christians. Our innate desires combine with pressure situations and Satan’s attacks to create conditions where any person, no matter how strong or virtuous, will yield without God’s help. But we do not seek God’s help, and the result is that we either resign ourselves to sin, or we try to resist and fail because we are trying to fight the battle rather than allowing God to fight it for us. Before you start believing that there is more to be admired in the latter than the former because the former is just a quitter, realize that the former leads to the latter! Fight with your own strength and you will not only fail, but you will fail so often that you will believe that victory is impossible. You will lose faith that God will deliver you. You will start justifying your sin, and even convince yourself that it isn’t sin at all! 

The real tragedy is that so many of us fall over things no more substantial than Esau’s meal, and react outside of God’s will in response to minor disagreements, personality conflicts, inconveniences, temporary financial hardship, etc. No different from Esau, we want things to always go our way. We break up our marriages and drive off our kids because we have to have the last word in every “discussion.” When someone sneers at us because of our faith, we confirm their stereotype and drive others from Christ by giving them precisely the self – righteous blowup that they were provoking. And we seldom tithe because it may mean paying a couple of bills late and mess up our credit reports. 

Not only do we lack the humility to allow someone else to “win” an argument or the charity to lower our own financial status to help someone else, but what is worse we lack faith, humility, and submission. You need enough submission to let your spouse or teenager win the argument so you keep the family together long enough for you to pray for God to change their heart (or yours because sometimes you’re the one wrong!). You need enough humility to defeat the sneering scorners by showing potential Christians how your sincere, loving actions are superior to their hateful words. And you need faith that not only will God bless you to buy whatever you desire despite your credit, but he will pay off the very bills that you were foregoing your tithes for as well! 

What we as Christians lack is a sense of proportion; of perspective. Just like Esau, we focus on the here and now and ignore the long range plan. Where Esau wouldn’t wait 14 minutes on a meal, Jacob waited 14 years to marry Rachel. Realize that Jacob spent 7 of those years with a wife that he didn’t want. Realize that Jacob worked those 7 years for the wife that he did want, she wouldn’t be nearly as young and pretty as she was when he first saw her 14 years ago. Realize that when Jacob worked those extra 7 years for the privilege of being caught in the middle of his two wives’ lifelong jealously. But he did it anyway because he had faith, humility, submission, and a sense of proportion. Because of that, he became the father of God’s chosen. Meanwhile, Esau, whom Paul called profane, became the father of the Edomites, a wicked nation that
Israel ruled and crushed.

Before you say that you are not dealing with a temporary situation but rather long term trials and tribulations, again, let us not lose perspective. Suppose you struggle with an issue for 1, 2, or even 5 years (or the 7 years that it takes for negative items to be taken off your credit report). The human life expectancy is 80 years! What is 1 year, or even 10, compared to the whole of the 80? Think about the trying, heart – rending, difficult crisis type of situations that you have faced over your life. Most of them you don’t remember, and the ones that you do you probably are amused at how seriously you took it. Why? Because whether you win, lose, or break even the situation goes and you are still there. That situation is just a dot on your lifespan, and your lifespan is just a dot in eternity. So don’t trade heaven for a bowl of pottage. Instead, take it to your God and wait on him to work it out.


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