Hebrews 12 is a great passage. It is loaded with principles that, if lived out, amount to living a great life before God and others.
Of the many things that could be highlighted from this passage, there is a little statement about halfway through that I’ve been particular fond of for some time:
See that no one is…unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. (Hebrews 12:16)
This verse references a story from the Old Testament found in Genesis 25. It’s only a few verses, so I’ll share them here to catch all of us up on the story.
Once when Jacob (Esau’s brother) was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank an rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. (Genesis 25:29-34)
In Jewish culture back in those days, the firstborn son held a prominent place in the family and received a greater inheritance than any of the other siblings. This was Esau’s lot in life. This was his identity and destiny. He was to carry on the family name and receive not only his father’s blessing, but the greatest portion of the family inheritance.
This identity is what he traded away for a bowl of soup. He scorned his future inheritance for immediate gratification. He traded his destiny to satisfy a compulsive desire.
It’s been a while, but as parents, we hear this type of statement from time to time. When the kids want a snack and dinner isn’t quite ready… “But I’ll die if I don’t eat right now.” The same type of response occasionally surfaces when it’s time to do chores or homework.
Unfortunately, many of us never learn to deny our impulses. The world exhibits the consequences every day. Adulterous affairs resulting from a desire to “just do it” without any thought or restraint resulting in the trading away of family and character, often at incredible financial, relational, and personal cost. There are countless financial and physical manifestations as well from embezzlement to obesity – still resulting from the same inability to resist a momentary compulsion.
Unfortunately, this is “normal.” It’s how people behave. It’s everywhere in our culture from advertising to the compulsive commentary so infamous on social media. But in the face of this normalcy, the author of Hebrews calls us to be different.
We’re called to be set apart. We’re called to remember our identity and destiny as human beings created in God’s image. We’re called to deny destructive impulses because we’re a people created to reflect God’s goodness and character in everything we do. We’re invited to remember that we were created by God to share in his governance of all creation. We’re invited to remember that we’ll ultimate give an account for the way we live and what we do with our lives.
We were created for much more than normal. Never forget that. Never forget the story that we’re a part of. God created this whole thing. He created us to have a role in it – to reflect him, to take care of things, and to be a blessing in everything we do. This is our identity. Let’s learn to live accordingly.