You remember the story.
Twin brothers– one with a penchant for cooking, the other a hunter. The cook (the younger of the two) had the favor of his mother. The hairy hunter was his father’s delight. In a moment of desperate hunger, focused on the immediate longing of his belly, the hunter traded his birthright— his blessing because he was firstborn– for what his brother had cooked up. When his twin conspired with his mom to get the blessing from Esau at the end of his father’s life, Esau could only blame himself.
And then there’s Jesus. He, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross. What a stark contrast He is to the carnal Esau, who for a single meal, sold His birthright.
In Hebrews 12, they are two examples, exhibiting a focus on entirely different things– Christ focused on eternal joy; Esau focused on momentary hunger:
“let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus …who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, …Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, …Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that …no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
How many things in our lives have the potential to be like Esau’s stew?
- Will I choose the immediate pleasure that I desire… despite the cost?
- Will I choose what is temporal and fills my belly… even though it does not go along with long-term goals?
- Will I choose what my feelings convince me will make me “happy”… even though it breaks my vows or goes against God’s Word?
- Will I choose to say the thing that my flesh longs to say… though it brings sorrow, pain, or division?
- Will I choose a focus on acquiring more things that make my life easier… despite having spoken beliefs that only Christ– and not things– will satisfy my heart?
…or Will I take up my cross and follow Jesus, because of the joy set before me in eternity?
Now, let me say– it’s not always that simple. If my choices are english muffin or oatmeal for breakfast, one’s not stew, and the other “the cross.”
But sometimes it IS that simple.
Sometimes we know… by the Spirit, by God’s grace, we know. We know that there is a decision facing us– something we will say or not say, something we will do or not do, a vow we will break or not break, someone we will wound or not wound– and one choice is “stew” and the other is “cross.”
And don’t tune me out: I’m convinced that this sort of big-picture philosophy actually matters in those places where the rubber meets the road in the Christian life.
It’s how affairs happen. A woman’s desire for an affectionate, heart-pounding kiss from someone she’s gotten too close to overrides the vow she made to her husband and to God, and within a short time, everything about her life has come tumbling down. Stew.
It’s the place where laziness meets parenting– we want them to be quiet, and so instead of doing the (longer, more difficult) work of training our children to be pleasant and enjoyable, we frustratedly yell, “Would you guys JUST BE QUIET?!” Stew.
It all (ultimately) relates to the the stew and the cross.
In that moment, when the choice is ours, will we choose the temporary, short-lived, good-to-the-eyes, easy “stew”, or will we choose to embrace the cross of the Christ-life– willfully enduring the suffering sent our way because our eyes are set on eternity?
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