“I would sell my soul for a piece of chocolate right now.”
Okay, we all know this a figure of speech. No one would actually sell their soul for food, right? (Although I admit, there were times during the worst of my pregnancy cravings I might have come pretty doggone close!)
But we all know, when it comes down to it, the value of our souls. As Christians, we know our souls have so much value that God sent his Son to die for their redemption (See John 3:16). Our souls aren’t valuable simply because of what they are but whose they are and, by default, the identity they assume once declared righteous: the place they take within the family of the redeemed.
You see, pretty early on, God established pretty on the importance of being in the line of inheritance of those to whom the promise of salvation had been made (see Genesis 17 and 21). The promise was made to Abraham initially but it was through God’s selection–Isaac, not Ishmael–that the line continued and, along with it, the inheritance. As believers, we were adopted into this line of inheritance once we professed faith in Christ.
“If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29) And, later in that same letter: “So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” (4:7)
And this isn’t the only instance where Scripture makes sure we know our place.
“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are his children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…” (Romans 8:16-17a)
“…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” (Colossians 1:12)
Whether Jew or Gentile, man or woman, firstborn or last born–none of it matters anymore. Unlike in the times of the Old Testament, we no longer have to worry about our bloodlines because it is no longer our blood that determines our inheritance but Jesus’s!
“He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” (Galatians 3:14).
Because of Jesus, we now have a “divine birthright.” We are God’s children and, with that, heirs to the promise of salvation, mercy, and grace. We have hit the familial jackpot, for all intents and purposes.
Why in the world would we ever “despise” that jackpot? Why would we ever give it up? On paper, we wouldn’t; nothing on earth could ever come close to the rewards waiting for us in heaven.
But, in the daily grind of real life….
It takes me back to the story of Jacob and Esau found in Genesis 25. Jacob and Esau were twin brothers born to Rebekah and Isaac (the son of Abraham, for all those keeping track of the genealogy). Although twins, Esau was born first and, according to customs of the time, would stand to inherit headship of the family as well as a double portion of any financial assets. Keep this in mind as we pick up an important and life-changing part of their story in verse 27:
“The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, ‘Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!’…Jacob replied, ‘First sell me your birthright.’ ‘Look, I am about to die,’ Esau said. ‘What good is the birthright to me?’ But Jacob said, ‘Swear to me first.’ So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.” (verses 27-34)
Now, there is lots to discuss in this portion of Scripture about Jacob and the way he manipulated and connived his way to a birthright that wasn’t his own (or was it?). And if you go on reading in Genesis, you’ll see the Jacob most certainly pays the price for his underhandedness. But that’s not what we’re focused on here. Here, we’re focused on Esau and how readily–and easily–he gave up his inheritance….
…for bread and lentil stew.
Think of all Esau stood to inherit. Though maybe modest by today’s standards, what lay at stake was no small thing back in those days. Land. Livestock. People. Status. Money. Not to mention the promise made to Abraham by the Lord Himself.
And he gave it all up because he was hungry. He despised (literally “held in contempt,” meaning he gave little regard something that should have been highly regarded). Keep in mind, Esau’s birthright was a gift. He did nothing to earn it; rather, it was given to him as a blessing because of who he was.
An eternal blessing he readily gave up to satisfy temporary cravings.
As Christians, we have also been given an eternal blessing, a gift which we have not earned but has been bestowed upon us because of who we are–God’s children. And how many times each day do we “despise” that gift, giving it way less regard than it deserves?
Any time that we choose sin or fleshly desires over obedience to the Spirit, we are “despising our birthright” as God’s heirs. Our weakness may not be bread and lentil stew (though hunger is a real and powerful force that can tempt us into sin), but there are other appetites that may cause us to disregard our true identities in Christ. Lust, pride, anger, jealousy, revenge, sloth–any time we choose to indulge one of these sins rather than deny our flesh and follow Jesus, we are disrespecting, not only His work on the cross, but also our own birthrights which He shed His blood to secure.
We have a “glorious inheritance” (Ephesians 1:18) awaiting us, one in which nothing on this earth can ever hope to come close. So why do we so often readily treat it with scorn, if not in words then in our actions? Our inheritance leads us to joy, hope, love, and eternal life; our flesh leads only to sin and death (see James 1: 14-15).
Therefore I urge you, fellow believers, to remember who you are in Christ and the beautiful promise for which He died in order to include you. Temptation is strong, but our God is stronger. May we never despise who He has made us to be or the gift He has so graciously given. Let us not be like Esau, rejecting our eternal for an appeasement of the temporary. Instead, let us “be on [our] guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13)
Because one day, we will take possession of our portion, our heritage, our full inheritance. John Calvin wrote: “We do not have the full enjoyment of it [our inheritance] at present. . . . We walk . . . in hope, and we do not see the thing as if it were present, but we see it by faith. . . . Although, then, the world gives itself liberty to trample us under foot, as they say…yet we are not destitute of a good remedy. And why Seeing that the Holy Spirit reigns in our hearts, we have something for which to give praise even in the midst of all our temptations. . . . [Therefore,] we should rejoice, mourn, grieve, give thanks, be content, wait” (from Calvin’s Ephesian sermons, delivered in Geneva, 1558—59).