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Appropriate appetites

Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate and drank and went on about his business, indifferent to the fact that he had given up his birthright. — Genesis 25:34

The title “Prince of Wales” is traditionally given to the eldest son of the United Kingdom’s reigning monarch. This prince is born to privilege. From birth he is prepared for the crown, while his brothers and sisters are merely prepared for life as royalty. On the death of his reigning parent, the crown prince will become king and enjoy all the trappings of majesty—and assume its responsibilities.

When George V died, his son, the Prince of Wales, became Edward VII. But he had fallen in love with a divorced American lady whom he wished to marry—a marriage which the British government would not permit. So the king had to decide between the throne or the lady, duty or desire. He chose the latter, abdicated, and married Mrs. Wallis Simpson. Together they lived out their lives in Paris as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

The ancient Hebrews operated in a system of “primogeniture.” In some ways similar to the laws governing British royal succession, it guaranteed the special rights of the firstborn son and also stipulated his corresponding responsibilities.

Esau was Isaac’s firstborn; Jacob was Esau’s twin brother. The younger brother was, in fact, “born with his hand grasping Esau’s heel” (Genesis 25:26). Esau, in light of his birth-order position, was given the privilege of maintaining and sustaining the remarkable spiritual heritage that God had granted first to his grandfather, Abraham, and later to his father, Isaac. He was also eligible, on his father’s death, to receive a double portion of his father’s considerable estate.

But Esau had little interest either in the privileges or the responsibilities of his favored position in the family. Jacob had considerable interest in both! Knowing Esau’s limited sense of calling or vision and his truncated sense of privilege and responsibility, Jacob set about accomplishing the amazingly simple task of taking the firstborn rights away from his older brother.

One day, when Esau returned hungry from the hunt, he smelled Jacob’s stew, and a deal was struck. Jacob ended up with the birthright and Esau with a plate of stew! So much for appreciating privilege and embracing responsibility.

It was Esau’s attitude, as well as his lack of priorities, which was so disconcerting. “Esau ate and drank and went on about his business, indifferent to the fact that he had given up his birthright” (25:34).

When a person’s sensual appetites dominate him, he will trade eternal values to fulfill them. He will prefer the satisfaction of those appetites to the fulfilling of his responsibility before God.

Such a person is like Esau—”immoral” and “godless.” One day he will weep “bitter tears” (Hebrews 12:16).

That’s troubling.

For further study: Genesis 25:28-34

Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.