What Is Your Birth Right Worth?

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GENESIS 25:21-34

The birthright was a significant thing in the culture of the patriarchs.  The encounter between the two brothers Jacob
and Esau over the birthright is not a trivial matter.
In that culture ordinarily the birthright passed from father to the oldest son.  With the birthright there came a position
of leadership in the family.  It also would have distinct advantages when the father died because the oldest son with
the birthright would get a double portion.  The birthright also designated its bearer as being the spiritual leader in
the family. In the case of the family of Isaac it meant that the representative place in the covenant of God would
accompany the birthright.    

In our own setting those things that we sometimes value very little would be represented by the birthright.  A place in
our family, our spiritual opportunities to serve God, our opportunities to bless others would be the kind of things that
would be in a spiritual birthright in our day.  

The difference in character of these two brothers began to manifest itself before they were born.  They were of a
contrary mind even in their mother’s womb.  When Esau came forth from the womb first, his brother Jacob was
holding on to his heel.  Even then there was a struggle going on to determine who would have the place of
leadership in the family.

On this particular day when the young man, Esau, returned from an extended hunt and was extremely hungry, Jacob
seized it as an opportunity to take advantage of him.  Esau found Jacob preparing a pot of pottage, something like
stew.  It was filled with lentils or a bean like vegetable that was common in that area.  As it cooked it would become
reddish in color in the pot.  When Esau saw and smelled the appetizing stew in the pot, he begged Jacob for a bowl
of it.  Jacob responded by requiring the birthright if he was to receive a bowl of stew.  Esau shrugged his shoulders
and said, “What good is a birthright if I die?  I am starving to death.”  But even then Jacob required a solemn oath
from his brother before he would feed him.  After giving Jacob the oath Esau received his bowl of pottage.  When he
had filled himself with the stew, he went his own way.  The writer of Genesis indicates that he went his own way,
“despising his birthright.” He counted the birthright as something of a little value.

This raises the question concerning the worth of spiritual things in life.  What are they worth to you?  What receives
the priority in your life – the physical or the spiritual?  The sensual or the things of God?  In the eyes of Esau the
things of earth were much more important to him than the things of eternity.  He despised his birthright.  

How do you determine the worth of a birthright?  Let us look at the birthright from three different angles to see if we
might be able to gain some insight into the value of the spiritual.  

There seems to be a false assumption on the part of both of these twins.  They seemed to have operated on the
assumption that the birthright was theirs to buy or sell.  Actually neither of them had ownership of the birthright.  
What was involved in the birthright in their situation was something only God could give.

It is probable that these young men were both aware of the word that had come to Rebekah before they were born.  
When she felt these two unborn babies struggling in her womb, she made their struggle a matter of prayer.  She
went to make an inquiry of the Lord about the meaning of this struggle.  The Lord responded by saying to her, “Two
nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the
other and the older will serve the younger.”  This indicates that even before they were born God had already
determined that ultimately the birthright would belong to the younger or to Jacob.  If they both knew this, they were
ignoring it as they bartered back and forth concerning the birthright.  

It is obvious that the birthright in the case of these two was a thing of supreme value in the eyes of the owner.  God
himself had chosen Abraham and Isaac and had determined that His redemptive purposes would be carried on
through the descendents of Isaac.  Indeed, He had already made this a matter of covenant with Isaac.  So to whom
ever the birthright was given, there went with it the supreme privilege of being a part of God’s continuing redemptive
purpose in history.  The Messiah, the Savior of the world would come into the world through the descendents of the
one with the birthright.  So the things of eternity were involved in the possession of the birthright.

Important and serious things are still involved in the birthright.  The spiritual privileges that belong to you have
eternal significance.  To barter them away as though they were cheap and trivial is a tragic mistake.  The Giver of
those privileges that come to you, the Giver of the spiritual opportunities of life, intends for them to be handled as
things of great value.  He intends for us to seek first his kingdom and then to worry about whether or not we have a
bowl of stew to eat.

So in determining the value of your birthright, it is good to begin with the Owner and the Giver of the birthright.  
What kind of value does He place on it?  

The focus on Esau in this passage is very helpful.  It gives us insight into the character of the man.  We have
already learned about Esau in this Genesis record that he was temperamentally given to the outdoors and the wild.  
It says that he “became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country.”  In the vernacular of our day he would probably
be described as “a man’s man!”  However there was in this “man’s man” a fatal flaw.  The lower side of his nature
controlled his life.  The physical appetites dominated him.  There seems to be evidence that this domination of the
physical appetites extended its way into every area of life.

In this confrontation with his brother Jacob, it became obvious that a bowl of stew was worth more to him than the
spiritual privileges that went with the birthright.  With a bowl of stew he could satisfy his hunger for the moment.  He
was more concerned about satisfaction now than he was satisfaction in the future.  So in order to satisfy a physical
hunger that would return in a little while and demand to be satisfied again, he was willing to sell his spiritual birthright
for a satisfying bowl of stew.  

It is obvious that Esau made a terrible bargain.  He made a foolish blunder!  Long after the bowl of stew had been
forgotten, the spiritual privileges that went with the birthright would still be blessing the life.  

This is a very illuminating text for the young among us.  Many in their youthful years make such bad bargains.  I
know young men who have traded their spiritual birthright for an automobile.  They found themselves with such
hunger to own a car and to enjoy the supposed freedoms that a car would bring with it, that they were willing to give
up their opportunity to get a good education, they were willing to give up their faithful participation in the life of the
church, they were willing to give up all opportunities to do something in service of the Lord.  They have been like
Esau – they wanted a car and they wanted it now.  They were not willing to wait for the time that God would give
them a car. Obviously just like the bowl of stew, the car is not a bad thing. It is a very useful thing when put into its
proper place, but it is surely not the most important thing in life.

I have also known young women and men who have traded their spiritual birthright for a night of sensual, sexual
satisfaction.  The sexual hunger was so intense that they thought they would die if they could not satisfy that
hunger.  So, they gave up the hopes of being chaste and clean when they came to the marriage altar, they put in
jeopardy their chances of having a good and successful marriage, they put in jeopardy the approval and blessing of
parents, they put in jeopardy a good name and all that it is worth for just a brief sexual encounter that would bring a
momentary satisfaction.  But after a while that sexual hunger that was satisfied by the encounter would be there
again.  Oh, what a bad bargain!  What a foolish blunder on the part of the young!
Let me add a crude word for our young people concerning this bowl of stew. Some of the brazen discussions of the
alleged sexual practices of our president have questioned what actually constitutes a sexual encounter. Does
mutual masturbation constitute a sexual relationship? Does oral sex constitute a sexual encounter? The answer is
yes. Either practice is trading for a bowl of stew at the expense of your birthright.
Others among the young have traded away their spiritual birthright for an experience with drugs.  Their peers kept
telling them how much sensual pleasure the smoking of the marijuana cigarette or the sniffing of the coke or the
injecting of the cocaine could bring to them.  They put everything in jeopardy, everything of value, everything of
eternal significance for a momentary pleasure that a dose of drugs could bring.  What a terrible bargain! When the
brief pleasure of the drug has run its course, it leaves behind a life destroying addiction.

How much is birthright worth?  For those who offer it for sale it seems to be worth very little.  The Esau’s of this world
will sell it for a bowl of stew, or a car, or a sexual experience, or a release that comes through drugs, or acceptance
within the peer group. Don’t be a part of this pitiful crowd.

The focus upon Jacob is also helpful.  While Jacob is not presented in his best light in this context, not everything is
negative.  It is true that he seems to have cared about the birthright more than he did his brother in this
circumstance.  It is also true that he is probably guilty of trying to help God do what God has said he will do.  He is
not willing to wait until God causes the older to serve the younger; he will attempt to force the issue.  This is not
commendable in any way.  

However, it must be admitted that Jacob at least placed the proper value upon the birthright.  To him the place of
leadership in the family and the place of spiritual ministry in the family were things of great worth.  He was ambitious
to have it.  He was willing to give up the pleasure of the bowl of stew in order to acquire it.  It is Esau that is chastised
by the writer of Genesis in the text – not Jacob.  This does not mean that Jacob’s example is one for us to follow but
it does give us encouragement to give proper value to the spiritual things of life.  

We should be prepared to give up the satisfaction of the hungers of life that demand to be satisfied now in order to
acquire spiritual gain at some undetermined time in the future. The couple who decides to keep their relationship on
the very highest plane so that they will be able to give themselves to each other without any shame or regret on the
night of their marriage has made a good bargain.  They have chosen the best!  It does not come without cost, but it
is always worth it.  I have never had a couple say to me that they regretted their sexual discipline that kept them from
becoming involved sexually before they were married.  I have had several to come through the years expressing
regret and wishing that they had done it differently!

That person who refuses all forms of drugs and intoxicants so that they can keep their bodies strong for life has
made a good bargain.  There are things of much more importance than experiencing some reported high that drugs
or alcohol is supposed to be able to give.  The Jacobs of this world who put the higher value on the birthright will be
those who come out on top in the end.  

You and I will have to decide for ourselves about how much we believe our birthright to be worth.  We must decide
whether it is more important to keep our lives useful for God or to have some hunger satisfied immediately.  We will
have to decide how important family will be in our lives.  We will have to decide how important God’s purpose will be.  
We will have to decide how important the rule of God is in our lives.  Will we be ruled by the animal appetites that are
in our bodies -–like Esau?  Or will we be ruled by a higher commitment to the will of God – like Jacob?  Only you can

Let me warn you that to give up the future to satisfy something that is present in this moment is almost always a bad
bargain.  You will end up with a bowl of stew that you will enjoy for a moment and then it is gone.  In enjoying the
bowl of stew, you gave up an opportunity to have a part in the kingdom of God for the years ahead.

May God help us to give proper value to the birthrights of life.

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