Don’t Trade Away God’s Lifelong Gift to Satisfy a Short-Term Appetite

Esau’s a great example of what not to do with your life

Growing up, I often learned by watching my older siblings make mistakes. Today, I’m learning from someone even older. Esau. He made a bad choice that earned him a dishonorable mention in the chapter following Hebrews’ “Hall of Faith.” That decision defined his life.

You may know the story. Genesis Chapter 25 captures it. Isaac and Rebekah gave birth to twins, Esau, the firstborn, and Jacob. Verses 24-26 capture their birth. Verses 27-28 records them maturing into men. Verses 29-34 record the worst decision of Esau’s life: He gave up his birthright for a bowl of stew.

He gave up a lifelong blessing for a one-time meal, not a meal plan or an all-you-can-eat buffet or a cup you can refill for free at Circle K. A birthright guaranteed Esau a double portion of the inheritance and the role as head of the family.

He gave it away for a bowl of lentil soup. I hope it was tasty.

The author of Hebrews — after celebrating a long list of the faithful in Chapter 11 — points to Esau, just him, as someone not to mimic. Eugene Peterson, who published The Message version of the Bible, wrote it like this:

Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God’s blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears.

Hebrews 12:16-17, MSG

What about me?

It’s easy to ridicule Esau, isn’t it? He exchanged untold power and profit for a bowl of bean soup. One bowl!

As Esau saw it, he would have died of starvation without the soup — and what good would a birthright be to him then?

But if I’m honest, how often do I give up the long-term, even the lifelong blessings that God has for me in exchange for something temporal? When I give in to fear instead of embracing a new opportunity? When I avoid an encounter instead of seeing what God will do through me?

How often in my daily life do I allow the tyranny of the urgent to get my attention instead of completing important projects I had purposed to do? Or welcome distraction instead of embracing what seems difficult?

Enough! I want to choose to wade into the river of God’s blessings. Then I want to get off these two legs I trust and submerge myself in that river. Allow myself to float (or ride the rapids, whatever!) to let God carry me wherever He will, do whatever He will, bless me however He will, and bless others through my choice to succumb to him completely.

That’s it. Jesus prayed it, too. Not my will, but yours.

I had hoped to publish something entirely different today, but I asked for input and permission from people I love before I clicked “publish.” And they said, “Wait.” I didn’t want to wait. I had nothing else to publish and a short supply of time to write an alternate post.

But I knew — especially after reading those verses in Hebrews 12 — that I didn’t want to trade a momentary satisfaction for lifelong relationships with those I love.

Maybe you’re like me today. Maybe you realize how often you trade the long-term for immediate gratification. The unseen for what you can see and grasp now. Maybe you, like me, react to emails and urgent requests, instead of persevering in the most important task.

I’m trying to recognize that my discomfort in the moment makes me throw myself into the arms of God, to seek His help. I want to praise Him in the pain. To trust His timing. To develop spiritual eyesight so I can see beyond the steaming bowl of soup in front of me and claim my birthright as His child.

I’m sorry for Esau and his choice. But I am thankful I can learn from his bad example and choose better.

How about you?


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