I've always wondered why Esau would so quickly give up his birthright for soup. Maybe it's because I'm a vegetarian, and can't sympathize with being hungry from game hunting. Maybe it's because I can't imagine being so hairy. (By the way, does anyone else have flashbacks to touching fuzzy Sunday School felt board characters when they think of the story of Jacob and Esau?) But in all seriousness, Esau's attitude always seemed a little un-relatable. I mean, I would have to be really hungry before I got that desperate. And if Esau really were so hungry, wouldn't that make Jacob's actions exceptionally mean? No matter which way you slice it, the story seems harsh.
Photo from http://kitchenography.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/02/red-lentil-soup.html
But I saw this story in a new light as I read it today. See, what's really at stake in Esau's choice is the exchanging of the infinite for the temporal. The future for the here-and-now. And that's something we can all relate to.
Again and again, the Bible tells stories of men and women who were challenged to see beyond their current moment in history. And that's what faith is. The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1).
I'm so drawn by this concept of vision. Within the past year, God's been teaching me to put my sights on the unseen. Sometimes it's easy, and sometimes it's anything but. When the unseen means making sacrifices in the seen, or investing your heart in something that doesn't seem so steady--when God promises you something but doesn't tell you the timing--it's easy to want something tangible and "solid" to fall back upon. I put solid in quote marks because reliance on the here-and-now is not always the steady ground it may seem. Problem is, God is preparing us for a greater purpose, and if we never fix our eyes to it-- if instead, we allow our eyes to stray to what's just in front of ourselves-- then we will never know how it feels when the unseen becomes reality. It's living in commitment to the unseen that not only brings greater dreams to pass, but also, and more importantly, becomes an act of faith.
The following are some aspects of Esau's bigger problem that I think impact us so easily and distract us from our greater callings:
- Undervalue/lack of appreciation for birthright. Sometimes I want to smack Esau across the head when I read this story. I can always remember thinking it seemed almost ridiculous that he would so quickly exchange his birthright for soup. But at the heart of this choice is the idea of value. What we value, we privilege and protect. If that means giving up time, energy, emotion, prayers, sleep, or even (as in Esau's case) going hungry, we will guard and protect that thing with all our strength. If, on the other hand, we don't value our birthright, and we don't value ourselves as children of God, it becomes much easier to let those privileges and callings slip through our fingertips because we don't make them a priority.
- Lack of vision. As I already mentioned earlier, so much of faith comes back to the concept of vision. Remember that the Bible says without vision, people perish. Is your faith vision greater than what you'd consider your everyday circumstances/reality?
- Emphasis on here and now. I think Esau would fit in Western society quite nicely with his prioritization of immediate gratification. Part of his problem was that the soup was in front of him, and he was hungry, and that was that. Instead of considering the long-term ramifications of his actions, he made a rash decision that cost him just about everything. We must be careful to live our lives with intention, lest we too get trapped in this here-and-now mentality.
- Hunger. When we live outside of God's fullness for our lives, we get hungry and are more likely to satisfy that hunger other ways. We start looking for fulfillment in places we were never meant to receive it from instead of from the hand of God. I think it's oh-so-very important that we become more conscious of our hungering, lest our cravings lead us to unwittingly give up the powerful purpose God has for us in His calling.
What do you think? How can we avoid the "lentil soup obsession" of our modern society, instead looking to God to sustain us and fulfill our needs?