A Mess of Pottage

"Esau ... for one morsel of meat sold his birthright." Hebrews 12:16

    It is often possible to barter life's best values for a momentary gratification of physical appetite.

    That is what Esau did. He had come in from the
field tired and hungry. At that moment Jacob was cooking a pot of red
bean soup. When Esau asked for a bowl of the "red stuff," Jacob said,
in effect, "Sure, I'll give you some if you'll sell me your birthright
in return."

    Now the birthright was a valuable privilege which
belonged to the oldest son in a family. It was valuable because it gave
him the place of eventual headship in the family or tribe and entitled
him to a double portion of the inheritance.

    But at that moment, Esau considered the
birthright worthless. What good is a birthright, he thought, to a man
who is as famished as I? His hunger seemed so overpowering that he was
willing to give almost anything to satisfy it. In order to pacify a
momentary appetite, he was willing to surrender something that was of
enduring value. And so he made the awful bargain!

    A similar drama is being reenacted almost daily.
Here is a man who has maintained a good testimony for years. He has the
love of a fine family and the respect of his Christian fellowship. When
he speaks, his words carry spiritual authority, and his service has the
blessing of God upon it. He is a model believer.

    But then comes the moment of fierce passion. It
seems as if he is being consumed by the fires of sexual temptation. All
of a sudden nothing seems so important as the satisfaction of this
physical drive. He abandons the power of rational thought. He is
willing to sacrifice everything for this illicit alliance.

    And so he takes the insane plunge! For that
moment of passion, he exchanges the honor of God, his own testimony,
the esteem of his family, the respect of his friends and the power of a
sterling Christian character. Or as Alexander Maclaren said, "He
forgets his longings after righteousness; flings away the joys of
divine communion; darkens his soul; ends his prosperity; brings down
upon his head for all his remaining years a cataract of calamities; and
makes his name and his religion a target for the barbed sarcasms of
each succeeding generation of scoffers."

    In the classic words of Scripture, he sells his birthright for a mess of pottage.