Everything in life is about a trade.
When I choose to spend time with my child, I make a trade to not clean my house at that time.
If I choose to make dinner tonight, I make a trade to save money eating in.
Should I decide to by pass the frozen Oreos in my freezer? (Well, let’s not go there!)
Some trades I make are good. On the days I trade a half hour of sleep for extra time with Jesus in God’s Word … that’s a great trade. The time I chose to keep dusting as my daughter shared her heart with me … that was a horrible trade. Taking care of my body or indulging in a little more dessert? It’s all about what trade I will make.
There’s a guy in the Bible, not much different than me, who also made a trade. His name was Esau, and the story of his dealings are found in Genesis 25.
Esau was the twin brother of Jacob. Esau, like me, was an outdoorsy type. Jacob, unlike me, liked to hang out in the kitchen.
One day, after being out in the open country, Esau returned home exhausted and famished to find Jacob cooking some stew. He said, ‘Quick, let me have some of that red stew!’ (Genesis 25:30, NIV).
Jacob, being the conniving type, saw an opportunity to play let’s-make-a-deal with his older brother. He made a proposition, ‘First, sell me your birthright’ (Genesis 25:31, NIV).
According to Jewish tradition, fathers gave the birthright to the firstborn son. The eldest would receive the title of the family name (maybe something like the way royalty passes on the family title) and a double portion of his father’s inheritance.
Maybe Esau thought Jacob’s proposition was a lighthearted toss, so he threw back an exaggerated, sarcastic response: ‘Look, I am about to die. What good is the birthright to me?’ (Genesis 25:32, NIV)
That’s all it took. He swore an oath and got his bowl of stew.
When I first read this account I thought: Really? Give away all of your rights for a bowl of stew?
What would possess Esau to make such an uneven exchange?
Take a closer look at the word describing Esau’s condition: famished. Extremely hungry, starving, empty, hollow. I think Esau’s condition had a lot to do with his decision. Past the point of being hungry, he was empty.
If Esau would have grabbed a snack while waiting for the meal preparation, he could have been sated until all was ready. The temptation to give up the best of later for the quick fix of now wouldn’t have had such a tantalizing pull.
Esau and I are a lot alike. When I’m ‘hungry’ — whether that looks like loneliness, fear or tiredness — I can make some unwise decisions. When my heart is empty, I can make an unequal trade out of desperation. In this condition, I am tempted to:
- Make quick decisions – Speed had everything to do with Esau’s choice. He wanted his problem fixed now! It wasn’t hard for Jacob to manipulate a man who wouldn’t wait.
- Exaggerate my condition – Esau told his brother he was about to die. Someone who has been out in the open country all day doesn’t seem to be at death’s door.
- Make unwise decisions – Esau gave up the best of what he had for a bowl of stew.
What’s the trade you’re facing? Does it have to do with how you spend your time, invest in relationships, or take care of yourself? Maybe you find yourself trading intimacy with your husband for a romance novel? Sacrificing financial freedom for ‘having it all’? Bypassing time with your kids for the project at work? The trade presents itself in many different ways.
Psalm 145:16 tells us, ‘You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.’ Jesus will satisfy our hungers and allow us to see the truth of the trade if we turn to Him. He will give us the wisdom we need to make wise trades. Then, we can see the exchange for what it is.
What trades are you tempted to make today? Let’s learn from Esau. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is worth the trade if it means giving up God’s very best.
What are some of the trades, good or bad, that you make on a regular basis?
Take a moment to ask the Lord to help you see these choices and give you the strength to make the best trades today.
Do you know a young woman making some unhealthy trades? Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants by Lynn Cowell can help her learn to make wise choices.
Lynn Cowell is a Proverbs 31 speaker and the author of several books including “Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants”. Lynn helps set girls and women on the path toward wise choices by leading them to the only love that can fill the love gap in their hearts. Her husband and their three children (all in college) live in North Carolina where they love hiking, rafting and anything combining chocolate and peanut butter.