Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Esau Syndrome

There have been some really bad deals made throughout history. In 1976 Ronald Wayne sold his shares of an upstart computer company for $800. That upstart was Apple Computer. In 1803 the French sold the Louisiana territory to the United States for 4 cents an acre. In 1867 Russia sold Alaska to the United States for 2 cents an acre. In 1919 the Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. All bad deals.

A biblical bad deal that rivals these is in Genesis 25. Esau sold his birthright, a priceless blessing and inheritance from his father, to his twin brother Jacob for a bowl of stew. Esau had been out hunting and came back famished when he came across his brother’s freshly prepared bowl of stew and made a deal that would haunt him and his ancestors for years to come.  

As foolish and impetuous as these bad deals may sound, it’s not beyond us to make a bad deal every now and then. We’re offended by an off-handed comment and let off some steam in uncontrollable anger and end up damaging or destroying a friendship. Bad deal. We feel neglected by our spouse, so we flirt with a co-worker and it feels so good to be affirmed. In the process we put our marriage vow in jeopardy. Bad deal. We feel underpaid at work so we help ourselves to a little of the profits. Bad deal. We feel overwhelmed at work or at home and turn to alcohol, drugs, or uncontrolled spending because we deserve it. We end up addicted or financially ruined. Bad deal. We seem like we can never get ahead so we stop by the casino and blow our check that was meant to pay rent and buy groceries.  Bad deals, all of them.

Why do we do this? When we are under some form of pressure we tend to fail to consider the long-term consequences of our actions as we seek instant relief. Granted, we get some temporary respite but in the long run we end up in a much darker and desperate place than where we started.

The Bible knows all too well that we are all vulnerable to trading for immediate pleasure while sacrificing something of enduring value. Esau is the poster child for this kind of hasty decision making. The author of the New Testament book of Hebrews uses him as an example of what not to do - Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God’s blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears. (Hebrews 12:16–17, The Message).

It’s not too hard to fall into the Esau Syndrome.

So be careful, especially when you’re under pressure. Be thoughtful before you make significant decisions. Hold your tongue and think through your words before you let them fly. Remember that life is a marathon and not a sprint. Practice denying self and resist the appeal of immediate gratification.

Don’t fall into the Esau syndrome!