Don't Despise Your Birthright
Hebrews 12 uses the tragic story of Esau to warn of the consequences of being a profane person, i.e. one unable to appreciate holy things and other blessings from God (Heb. 12:16, 17). Because he sold his birthright for one morsel of food, Genesis describes him as having “despised his birthright.” The rights and privileges of being the firstborn son of Isaac, the sole heir of Abraham, meant little to shortsighted Esau. His profane nature would be seen again when he married two Hittite women and brought grief to his parents—a couple whose marriage was carefully arranged by Abraham so that his son would not marry a woman of Canaan (Gen. 26:34, 35). Because of this profane nature he has lived on in infamy as the great illustration of one who irretrievably lost an important blessing because of an inability to see what really mattered.
While ours today is not the same kind of physical birthright Esau had, if by faith we have been baptized into Christ, we “are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:26-29). Let’s think for a few moments about the appreciation we should have for this spiritual birthright (and some other associated blessings) lest we begin to allow a profanity like that of Esau to creep into our lives.
First and above all else, we must value the salvation we have in Christ. Our salvation was obtained for us at a great cost and we must never forget the special nature of the blood by which we were sanctified (Heb. 10:29). As Ephesians 2 puts it, we were dead in sin and without hope, but His grace, mercy, love, and kindness brought us salvation. How marvelous to think that instead of being under the wrath of God (Rom. 5:9), we are the recipients of every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3). Let us daily contemplate the blessings we have in Christ, the exceedingly great and precious promises which are ours (2 Pet. 1:4), and the inheritance awaiting us (1 Pet. 1:3-5), or we could begin to lose sight of what a wonderful birthright we have. With the pleasures of sin at his disposal the devil may offer us what seems to be a lot more than a bowl of lentils, but in comparison to what we would give up, it is of no more value than the red stew for which Esau bartered.
“For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:26
“ And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire— where ‘Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’” Mark 9:47, 48
The inheritance we have in Christ is a birthright to be treasured above all else and while we may think we do, there are other things we must properly appreciate or else we will put our salvation in jeopardy. And as we consider these, let’s realize that we don’t have to despise them to be guilty of undervaluing them.
The Bible. Do we fully appreciate what we have in this great book? In it we have revealed to us God, His expectations, promises, threats, or as it is put in 2 Pet. 1:3, the knowledge of “all things that pertain to life and godliness.” Do we value the preaching of the living, powerful word of God (Heb. 4:12). Do our study habits reflect a greater appreciation for the teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness of the inspired Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) than the latest political news, entertainment gossip, or happenings with our favorite team? If we have tasted the graciousness of the Lord (1 Pet. 2:3) and know how special our position as the seed of Abraham is, then let’s make sure it is reflected in our desire for the word of the One who has blessed us with this birthright (1 Pet. 2:2).
Congregational Worship. While we often focus on the obligation not to forsake the assembling (Heb. 10:25), it might be profitable for us to think even more about the wonderful privilege congregational worship affords us. The Lord, wanting us to be strong in our faith that we not lose our inheritance, has blessed us with the opportunity of regularly gathering with others who will teach and admonish us in song (Col. 3:16); stir us up to the practice of love and good works (Heb. 10:24); help us more deeply appreciate the sacrifice that made our birthright possible (1 Cor. 11:23-32); and help us increase our knowledge of the Scriptures (Acts 20:7). How do we view congregational worship? Do we see it as the blessing it is as it helps us secure our position as Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise, or do we view it as an obligation we would avoid if we could? If we properly appreciate the salvation we have been given in Christ, we will find joy in the opportunity to express our thanks to God and be helped to grow closer to Him in these times of worship.
We could continue to add to this list with things such as the correction of our brethren, prayer, or even trials (James 1:3, 4), but we’ll stop here trusting the point has been made. If we fail to appreciate anything which is holy or a blessing from God, we may one day find ourselves to have permanently lost that blessing which matters most.
“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.” Heb. 12:14-17
All quotes are from the New King James Version, copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.