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October 22, 2008 / beidson

Repeating the Folly of Esau: Why Some Christians Are Willing to Sacrifice Life In Order to Satisfy Their Bellies

If you’ve never heard the biblical story of Esau, it is one you might nevertheless be familiar with.  Esau gave up his inheritance as the firstborn son to his younger brother Jacob, because he was hungry and Jacob had some stew.  Though his need for food was real, it was not really worth his inheritance, which is why Esau is regarded as a fool.  He gave up the thing of greater value in order to meet his immediate need.  We all know people who’ve done something like this and lived to regret it.  They didn’t have the vision or conviction to put aside their lesser, immediate desires in order to gain the greater, lasting reward.  But in the end, the damage done was irreparable.

The problem is that many Christians are now following in the footsteps of Esau, repeating his folly in like manner.  In their zeal to end the war and restore the economy they are willing to support a candidate who, in the long run, will demand a much higher price.  At the cost of human dignity and traditional morals held by all peoples of all times, some believers are willing to ignore their differences with Obama in order to address the more pressing concerns of the day.  Like Esau, they are hungry for change, and tragically, like Esau, they are willing to give up on the greater concerns in order to satisfy their immediate desires.

Now we can be sure that Esau did not really expect he would lose his blessing.  Perhaps he thougt he would find a way to get it back.  But Esau sought repentance with tears, and could not get it.  He could not undo his foolishness.  In a moment of insanity, he sided with his belly to the demise of his entire being.  Indeed, his belly was his god, and for this, God did judge him.

And here we are, on the brink of a national election, and many believers are now finding themselves in a similar predicament.  Tensions are running high and a lot is on the line.  But in the midst of the political fog and frenzy, Christians are renegotiating their priorities, and moving biblical values down to a lower tier, to a lower shelf, to be dealt with another time.  People’s appetites for pocket-book solutions and sensible government have begun to groan, so much so that they are drowning out the witness of Scripture.

Matters of grave importance have suddenly been “personalized” to the point of being trivialized.  Abortion and same-sex marriage have now become mere faith-matters, relegated to holy ground and removed from the public square.  The problem is that abortion does not happen behind closed doors, and same-sex marriage does not happen in a vacuum.  Both of these issues have ramifications that move well beyond the privacy of the suburbs into both the church and the public square.  The very nature of these issues scales any sort of imaginary wall that would supposedly separate the two.  At this point, two worlds collide, wall or no wall.  Earthquakes have no regard for boundaries.

I fear that in time we will lose more than we ever hope to gain by supporting a liberal, progressive agenda.  Sure, the war may end sooner and the market may stabilize (though I doubt Obama will follow through on his promises), but will it be worth it if in the end we have lost the value of human life and the sacredness of marriage, not to mention a host of other problems that will no doubt ride in on the back of change?  I think the lesson of Esau serves us well here.  For if we surrender what matters most in order to attend to what matters most to us right now, we will surely find ourselves weeping alongside Esau, and by then, it will be too late to change our minds.


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