Genesis 25:29-34 (The Message)
One day Jacob was cooking a stew. Esau came in from the field, starved. Esau said to Jacob, “Give me some of that red stew– I’m starved!” That’s how he came to be called Edom (Red). Jacob said, “Make me a trade: my stew for your rights as the firstborn.” Esau said, “I’m starving! What good is a birthright if I’m dead?” Jacob said, “First, swear to me.” And he did it. On oath Esau traded away his rights as firstborn. Jacob gave him bread and the stew of lentils. He ate and drank, got up and left. That’s how Esau shrugged off his rights as the firstborn.
“I’m starving!” Esau said to Jacob, “What good is a birthright if I’m dead?” There’s certainly no doubt that Esau was extremely hungry. He had been working all day in the field– hard, draining labor. But was he actually dying from lack of nourishment? Highly unlikely. Esau’s hungry belly responded urgently to the smell of a hearty stew, and he lost all perspective. He wanted what he wanted, when he wanted it, how he wanted it. Now! He made the promise to Jacob, scarfed down the food and drink, then walked away. The food was gone, but the consequences of his decision would be with him forever. No bowl of soup, no matter how scrumptious, is worth giving away one’s inheritance.
Last Monday, my sister-in-law and I started a diet. We’re both bridesmaids in a cousin’s wedding, so we agreed to be accountability partners, checking in by text message and skype. I’m amazingly weak when it comes to good food. And by “good” food, I actually mean bad. Yummy cheese, salty chips, fizzling soda. In addition, I loathe going to the gym. It takes a ridiculous amount of mental effort for me to choose to eat a salad, or to spend time on the treadmill. But if I’m going to fit into the fancy little dress hanging in my closet, I have to focus on the long-range goal. Focusing on the right things in life takes discipline.
Discipline? Oh, how we don’t like that word! It sounds uncomfortable and tedious and inconvenient. And, frankly, it often is. But it is also necessary. Without discipline, there would be no school graduations, no job offers, no promotions, no successful marriages, no healthy bodies. Without discipline, we can be tempted to give away our eternal inheritance for a quick pleasure.
John Wesley, the man who founded the Methodist movement, spoke and wrote often about the “spiritual disciplines” of praying, reading and studying scripture, participating in Communion, and joining in Christian community. He believed that these activities were gifts from God to help deepen our relationship with our Creator. Just as our bodies and minds need training, so does our spirit. The apostle Paul spoke about this in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27: “You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.”
What is it that distracts you from God’s promises? How are you doing right now in training your body, mind, and spirit for the race of life? What do you think needs to change for you?