Esau “despised” his birthright! The word means to disdain or hold in contempt. He held in contempt what his fathers held dear. He saw his birthright as just a worthless piece of parchment that could be used for bartering. He was willing to trade it away for mere morsels to feed his own desires. Esau did not see it as the precious promises of Almighty God, but rather an obstacle to his own happiness.
“And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.” Genesis 25:32–34
Esau is used in Hebrews chapter twelve as an example of profanity—using the things of God to accomplish the will of man.
“Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” Hebrews 12:16–17
It was only later that he realized what he had lost. Then, it was too late; he had unwittingly removed himself from the lineage of great men used for the purpose of God. All this for a bowl of red soup!
As a young preacher, I find many of my generation holding in contempt things very precious and valuable to our fathers of the faith—things that some gave their lives for. I am speaking of the “faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3) for which these great men contended. Many young men believe that the great teachings (doctrines) of the faith are now obstacles to modern ministry philosophy. If they stand in the way of a ministry objective, they can be traded away.
If we, young leaders of the faith, do not carefully evaluate the birthright of the faith passed to us, it will be very easy to trade it away (even unwittingly). Esau could have spent some time with Isaac learning the importance of the covenants of their faith, but rather he was more concerned with the moment. We do what is expedient in the moment and trade away things of great value!
Esau thought of the birthright as a useless tradition of the past. He despised the thought of walking in the path of his fathers. So, he traded it away for something as worthless as a bowl of soup. May God spare us from making such a profane decision as well!
Here are three thoughts for our generation:
1. We Should Seek to Understand the Value of the Principles That Have Been Passed down to Us
Traditions are to be evaluated biblically and received if they pass muster. Paul instructed the Thessalonian church to “hold fast” to the traditions they had been taught by him.
“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” 2 Thessalonians 2:15
“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.” 2 Thessalonians 3:6
2. We Should Place Ourselves under the Mentorship of Godly, Older Preachers
These men are like fathers in the faith. Just because we know more about technology than they do, doesn’t mean they haven’t thought through the ministry trends of our time and could offer timely caution for our good.
“O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.” 1 Timothy 6:20-21
3. We Should Be Very Wary of Trading away the Things That We Have Been Taught Unless it Is for a Clear Scriptural Reason
Lest we find ourselves like Esau, only later realizing the value of his birthright, we must not embrace new “tools” if they cause us to loosen moorings of Scriptural and historic value to the church. (I say historic, because it shows a precedent of godly men thinking it through and agreeing on the validity of the practice.)
Birthright for a bowl? Poor decision. The past for pottage, the Scripture for soup? In my opinion, same decision. May God spare us from making such a profane choice as did Esau!