“Now Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a simple man, dwelling in tents. Now Isaac loved Esau because he ate his venison, but Rebecca loved Jacob. Then Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and was weary. So Esau said to Jacob, ‘Let me taste this red stew, for I am exhausted.’ Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said to Esau, ‘Sell me your birthright today.’ Esau replied, ‘Look, I am about to die. What good then is this birthright to me?’ Then Jacob said, ‘Swear to me today.’ So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.” -Genesis 25:27-33
Consider the ramifications of this biblical event. Esau, the first-born, saw little value in his birthright. So in a moment of weakness, he chose to satiate his physical appetite rather than value what his birthright entitled him to. When he later sought the blessing which conveyed the birthright, it had been stolen from him and he could not retrieve it back.
Like Esau, you also have a birthright. As a Christian you were endowed with a birthright at baptism. At the font, you received your birthright as a child of God, and were given a deposit to ensure your inheritance: the Holy Ghost.
Consider again what Esau sold. “The blessing of the firstborn gave the eldest son a double portion of his father’s inheritance. He would also become the ruler and head over his brethren upon his father’s death and be responsible for the welfare and administration of the family. All this foreshadowed the Lord’s incarnation as the Firstborn of the Father and ruler and head over the Church. Through His incarnation, He would secure the Church’s eternal inheritance.” (From the Orthodox Study Bible)
In addition, Esau relinquished the role of seed bearer. No longer would the line of Christ go through him or his offspring. God would not work through Esau to bring forth salvation to the world. This also meant the Esau was, in essence, cut-off from the family line.
Hebrew’s 12:15-17 states, “Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be a fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.”
Esau is considered a profane fornicator because he was unfaithful to God. He despised his birthright and became a man ruled by his fleshly desires and worldly treasures. Though his father loved him, he despised his father and the birthright he was to receive. He was a fool.
But are we modern Christians any different?
During the great wars, the world witnessed the rise of totalitarian dictators. The rise was due to the direct influence of Marxist socialism, the chief aim of which is communism; the most oppressive form of humanist philosophy that claims total ownership of the men. The literal meaning of totalitarianism is “total ownership of man - body and soul.”
During this time, the Archbishop of Western New York, Fulton J. Sheen, addressed this threat. He asked, how did these totalitarian states get the souls of the people? He followed with this answer: “It was principally because the people abandoned their souls by no longer considering them as God’s. The State then said: If you do not want your souls, we will take them; if you do not want to educate them for the spiritual, we will educated them for the race, the nation, or the class.”
Today our choice is the same. If we find little value in our eternal birthright then we will sell it for a bowl of lentils. Surely, none of us would literally sell our soul for beans. But each time we prioritize recreation over church attendance, or binge-watch Netflix while neglecting our Bible, we are choosing worthless beans over an eternal birthright.
We must recognize that the world seeks total ownership of our souls. Church involvement no longer provides any social advantages. In fact, it can be downright inconvenient. But God asks His people to think critically, “Behold I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). The Bible also warns that the Man of Perdition will have gifts in his right hand, but we must understand that in his left hand will be our demise . . . which will come upon us one small compromise at a time.
So I will ask again, what is your soul worth to you? How can you keep from compromising your birthright? Here are a few suggestions:
Remember your oath of confirmation, when you promised to “reject the world, the flesh, and the devil.” As your priest, I am always available to help in any way I can. I am honored to do it. The devil is subtle, therefore we must be ever vigilant.
The Very Rev. Donald Sackett
Rector St. Andrew’s Anglican Church
This blog is about living out our Christian faith in the Anglican tradition. It includes homilies, Sunday services, and commentaries from our leadership.