June 18, 2008

"Give me some of that Red Stuff"

One of the sadder verses in the Bible is Hebrews 12.16. It speaks of Esau "who sold His birthright for a single meal." And it offers us a warning that we not become like him.

Have you ever thought it possible ... that you could slide to the place where, like Esau, you would be willing to sell your birthright for a single meal? According to the author of Hebrews, it is possible for any one of us to so slide spiritually – to let our hearts grow so cold – that we would be willing to trade in the privileges God has given us for the fleeting pleasures of worldly amusement. And it can be such a subtle thing. Notice that Esau did not sell his birthright for a night with a prostitute; he did not sell it for a drinking binge; he did not trade it in for a Baal charm to hang on his necklace. No, he traded his birthright – his opportunity at spiritual blessing – for something that wasn’t bad, in and of itself; he traded it for something that didn’t seem like a big deal; he traded it (Genesis 25.30) for “some of that red stuff.”

Now I submit to you that this is the kind of trade-off that so often begins a person’s slide away from a warm heart, away from an active faith, away from the blessing of God, and eventually out of the church. And some of you – along with others in your church, perhaps – are bartering these kinds of deals even now: trading Sunday worship opportunities for a little more overtime; trading prayer meeting for a little more sleep; trading quiet times for a little more recreation; trading serious attention in worship for distracted thoughts about the Sunday afternoon outing.

For the believer, these opportunities to take in God’s word are a spiritual birthright! What a shame to have them at your fingertips, and to trade them in for “some of that red stuff.” O, the red stuff will surely taste good. Who wouldn’t take the opportunity of enjoying some nice pasta sauce at The Olive Garden? But not at the expense of a birthright! Not at the expense of enjoying and benefiting from the word of God!

So I ask you, are you trading in that which is the believer's spiritual birthright? Are you trading in the opportunities God has given to feast on His word for a few more opportunities to sit at the table with Esau? You are on a slippery slope - one that may end up proving you never had the birthright. “See to it … that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.” Don’t let a single meal be the beginning of a long slide that will leave you out in the spiritual cold. Don’t let anything keep you from the house of God, and the people of God, and the word of God.

You’ve seen it happen to others – people who were once so interested in what was happening in the house of God – and who have faded away. And you know it didn’t start, for most of them, with some obvious, outward sin. It started because, somewhere along the line, they traded in a Sunday here and a devotion there for “some of that red stuff.” It started with excuses for why they couldn’t come – a late night here, some overtime there, a stuffy nose one week, bad weather the next, and the ballgame the week after that. And it ended with a complete relinquishing of what is the true believer's birthright. And now, a few years later, their bellies are filled with red stuff; so full, in fact, that they no longer feel any hunger at all for the Bread of Life.

So “see to it … that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.” See to it on behalf of your brothers and sisters. And see, also, to your own soul!


John Whitt said...

I think that the writer here uses the example of Esau, not as a warning of what the believers of the church might become, but rather an example of a person to compare themselves. He is more of an example of one who is not born again. As we know from Romans 9 Esau was always unholy from before he was ever born. Esau never loved God and we see in vs 17 that he never could love God as he was never granted the ability to repent. (2 Tim 2:25) As true believers, we can slide, become stale and miss out on the blessings God has for us, however I think this passage gives us the example of Esau not to show us as believers what we could actually lose (our birthright or repentance) but rather a measuring stick of where we are. Are we born again or are we still in our sin, unable to repent, and loving the things of this world more than God?

Kurt Strassner said...

John makes a valid point. The original draft of this article did make it sound like I might be saying that a true believer might be among those who relinquish their spiritual birthright.

I have updated the language to make what I mean clearer - namely, that it is possible for any of us to relinquish what is the believer's birthright. But if we do, we are proving that we never truly possessed the birthright to begin with.

I hope the warning is taken seriously ... without the security of the true believer being misunderstood.