Isaac married Rebekah, who gave birth to twins, Jacob and Esau. After the boys come of age, Jacob tricks Esau out of his birthright.
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!” (This is how Esau got his other name, Edom, which means “red.”)
“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?”
But Jacob said, “First you must swear that your birthright is mine.” So Esau swore an oath, thereby selling all his rights as the firstborn to his brother, Jacob.
A birthright was a special honor given to the firstborn son. It included a double portion of the family inheritance along with the honor of one day becoming the family’s leader. The oldest son could sell his birthright or give it away if he chose, but in so doing, he would lose both material goods and his leadership position. By trading his birthright, Esau showed complete disregard for the blessings that would have come his way if he had kept it.
Esau traded the lasting benefits of his birthright for the immediate pleasure of food. Esau exaggerated his hunger. “I’m dying of starvation!” he said. The pressure of the moment distorted his perspective and made his decision seem urgent. He acted on impulse, satisfying his immediate desires without considering the long-range consequences. We can fall into the same trap. When we see something we want, our first impulse is to get it and we can exaggerate its importance in the moment. We can avoid making Esau’s mistake by comparing the short-term satisfaction with the long-range consequences.
We often experience pressures like Esau did. For example, when we feel sexual temptation, a marriage vow may seem unimportant. We might feel such great pressure in one area that nothing else seems to matter and we lose our perspective. Getting through that short, pressure-filled moment is often the most difficult part of overcoming temptation.
Ask God to help you see life from his perspective and to help you resist making an Esau-like choice.