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!" (That is why he was also called Edom.) 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. -- Genesis 25:29-34
If you grew up in the church, you've no doubt heard this story before. Esau sells away his birthright to Jacob for a single bowl of stew! He gives up his whole inheritance and his future blessing for what would cost $5 in our day. Jacob is acting like a dirtbag here that he would even attempt to do this to his brother. But Esau is not without guilt, he is being incredibly foolish. Why would he give away all of that for one bowl of stew? I think two things played into it.
Esau exaggerates his desire
Take another look at Genesis 25:32. Esau came home from a hard day's work and he is rightly hungry. But when Jacob proposes the ridiculous deal, Esau goes along with it after saying that he is about to die. Really?! You're about to die? Exactly how long have you not eaten? 12 hours? Esau exaggerates his hunger and makes himself feel like he just can't live without getting what he wants right at this moment. He believes his desire is an actual need. Because of that, he convinces himself that its necessary to do whatever it takes, even sell out his future, to get what he wants now.
Don't exaggerate your desires! If you don't take a step back and honestly evaluate your desires, they can easily seem so big and important that you rush into foolish situations for them. You may even wreck your future because you were too focused on the little things you wanted now.
I've seen this happen with singles a lot. Are you single and desire a girlfriend or boyfriend? Don't let that desire trick you into thinking you NEED a boyfriend or girlfriend now. Don't just rush into a relationship to fill some desire. I've seen Christians date non-Christians, rush into relationships with people they didn't know very well, ignore counsel from friends and family, have pre-marital sex, and more just to fill the NEED to have a boyfriend or girlfriend now. I've listened to many of those same people tell me of their deep regrets as they speak about how those decisions hurt their future relationships and marriage.
What is it you desire? Do you really NEED it? Will you really DIE if you don't get it right now? Please, be patient as Esau should have been. Wait for God to provide in His timing in a way that doesn't require you to compromise your morals or sell out your future.
Esau didn't believe it would really cost him
Let's fast forward a bit. This next verse is quite a few years down the road. Isaac is old and blind and everyone thinks he is about to die. Isaac asks Esau to go get him a meal and he tells him he will give him his firstborn blessing after the meal. While Esau is out hunting, Jacob tricks his blind father into thinking he is Esau and Jacob gets the blessing instead. When Esau finds out, look how he responds.
When Esau heard his father's words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, "Bless me--me too, my father!" -- Genesis 27:34
This does not seem like the reaction of a man who was expecting his brother to get his blessing. This sounds like Esau really thought it would be his. When Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for some stew, he didn't really think it would come back to haunt him later in life. He thought he'd be able to get the stew and ignore the deal later. Maybe he thought he'd just beat up the little momma's boy when he tried to collect or maybe he thought he would just deny it when Jacob told dad about the deal. Either way, he definitely did not think that this sale would actually go through.
Don't doubt the consequences! Often, when we are tempted to sin or compromise to get what we want, we foolishly think that no one will ever know and it won't really hurt anyone. That is a lie! Compromise and sin always hurt and these things always come into the light! Cheating on tests in college may get you the grade now, but may get you in major trouble later when you get caught or when you end up failing at future classes or future jobs because you never really learned what you needed to know. Worse yet, God sees you and your sin and compromise will affect your walk with Him and your personal joy.
How do you want to compromise? Don't believe the lie that there will be no consequences. There will be trouble down the road for these mistakes today. And more importantly, God always sees.
Esau got played and that stinks. But he got played because he let his desire for food become a NEED that outweighed everything else in importance. He also got played because he thought he could ignore the consequences of his actions.
Sin and compromise are tricky like Jacob. God has a special call on your life. Don't let sin and compromise trick you into selling out on the amazing future God has planned for you. Be realistic about your desires and don't let them convince you they are NEEDS that should drive your every decision. Don't buy the lie that your little compromises and sins today won't cause real problems for the future. They always do.
Instead, take joy in the future God has planned for you. Allow your hope for that future to drive you when confronted with sin and temptation. Allow it to fuel you to say, "I will not compromise today because there is something greater waiting for me in the future." Even though God may not have the same things planned for all of us in this life, the one piece of the future all of us Christians can strive for is to here Christ's words as He speaks to us, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."