Best of Daily Reflections: Living Outside Your Bowl of StewDaily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, ‘Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!’ (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, ‘First sell me your birthright.’ Esau said, ‘I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?’ Jacob said, ‘Swear to me first.’ So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
Jacob and Esau were twins. Esau was the older, and Jacob was the younger. Esau was his father’s favorite, and Jacob was his mother’s. As the first born, Esau claimed the family blessing. This blessing had a tangible financial value. It also had an intangible spiritual value related to a special measure of God’s presence and God’s blessing.
I doubt that Esau was literally dying of hunger when he came in from the field that day. It’s the sort of thing we often exaggerate to one another when we’re hungry. It’s easy to picture Jacob rolling his eyes and replying tongue-in-cheek, “Okay. Sell me your birthright.” It’s possible Jacob wasn’t being serious — that is, until Esau agreed to it. I imagine Jacob was stunned. Did Esau really mean it? Jacob even gave Esau a chance to take the offer back.
Swear to me first.
But Esau didn’t take it back. Esau did swear it.
Thus Esau despised his birthright.
It’s an everyday lesson that life is more than what’s in our “stew bowls.” While it’s true that God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17), God also teaches us the importance of discipline, moderation, and restraint. God gives us what’s in the bowl, so that we can enjoy life’s pleasures, but he wants us to balance that with things outside the bowl — hope, purpose, relationships, transcendence, justice, honor, nobility, and love.
Don’t let what’s in a bowl become the focus of your life. More importantly, don’t give away what’s most valuable for temporary pleasures.
Questions for Reflection:
The Bible says that God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. What aspects of your physical life do you enjoy most? In what ways do you think these physical pleasures obscure the way you look at life and faith? Where do you sense a need for greater discipline?
Merciful and generous God, thank you for providing me with so many pleasures to enjoy. Search me and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts, and reveal to me the places where my pursuit of pleasure handicaps my life with you and the world you love. Amen.
These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples born of you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
the elder shall serve the younger.”
When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.
When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.