Living in the Moment
RUMC 9 July 2017
A number of years ago, ABC’s 20/20 televised an experiment on self-control that involved small children. The children were told they could eat one cookie. But if they waited 20 minutes while the TV reporter ran an errand, then they could eat two cookies. As expected, many of the children did not want to wait and ate their cookie right away. Then there were some, who waited for what seemed like an eternity, and they got their two cookies. This TV program showed that, even at a very young age, some of the children had a predisposition towards instant gratification, or wanting to live for the moment, rather than waiting for something better.
Today’s Bible story is over 5000 years old, yet it deals with the same issue. It is the story of Esau who sold his birthright, or inheritance, for just a bowl of soup. The lesson we can take away is this: Are we living in the moment, or are we investing in the things that would benefit our souls?
Today’s scripture is Genesis 25:29-34.
Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. 30 Esau said to Jacob “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom [red].) 31 Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” 32 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 33 Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. This is the Word of God.
At the outset, Esau and Jacob were as different as night is from day.
- Esau was the oldest of twins.
Jacob was the youngest.
- Esau was the favorite of his father.
Jacob was his mother’s favorite.
- Esau loved the outdoors.
Jacob preferred to stay inside.
- Esau was a skilled hunter.
Jacob stayed among the tents.
- Esau was adventurous.
Jacob was a homebody.
- Esau acted on impulse.
Jacob was crafty and shrewd.
- Esau did not give any thought to spiritual things.
Jacob with all his faults had a tender heart towards God.
I’m sure you have seen something similar in your families, where children who were brought up in the same way turned out so differently. For example, one child becomes successful in school, while the other drops out. One is a responsible citizen, while the other gets in trouble with the law. One has long term goals, and the other lives day to day.
For fun, I made up an imaginary conversation between the two brothers:
E-Jacob, I am famished. Please give me something to eat.
J-Hey big brother, you have some venison. Why don’t you cook it?
E-It will take too much time to clean, dress and cook. Besides, I am hungry now.
J-What will you give in return?
J-How about your birthright?
E-You mean my inheritance? What good will that do me? I will not see it for another 50 years, and besides who knows what the future will bring? Sure you can have my birthright. Just give me a bowl of stew.
We all know what happened; Esau swapped his inheritance for a bowl of soup. That was a very bad business decision caused by impulse and physical desires. It is sad; Esau didn’t consider the consequences, nor did he take responsibility for his actions. Furthermore, as the eldest son, Esau would have inherited 2/3 of his father’s property while Jacob was to receive 1/3, making his decision even worse.
This was a classic case of living for the moment. If we are not careful, we too could make decisions based upon what looks good at the time. When we have these “weak” moments–if we are stressed, tired, tempted, pressured, depressed, physically low, hungry, or thirsty–those are not the times to make important decisions.
- In a weak moment, a dieter may see a delicious piece of dessert and yield.
- In a weak moment a tired driver may decide to keep going rather than stop, which could be fatal.
- In a weak moment, there could be some type of temptation that might cause us to ruin our reputation.
- In a weak moment, an alcoholic or addict who has been sober decides to take something and relapses.
Esau was not the only one who paid too much for his soup. There are others who have gambled with their lives to get immediate results. One person who comes to mind is former baseball player Ken Caminiti. Caminiti needed to become stronger and faster to excel and get his next big contract, so he took performance enhancing drugs.
The steroids made the difference; Caminiti played major league baseball for 15 years. He was the National League MVP once and three times an All Star. However with all his success on the baseball diamond, Caminiti began to experience physical side effects from the steroids. He died of a fatal heart attack at the age of 41.
If Esau had a motto, it could have been, “Live for today and forget tomorrow.”
Prior to the time I joined Weight Watchers, Janet and I went to a restaurant for an evening meal. When we arrived, I was very hungry, and, in the course of the evening, I made some bad choices. First thing I did was order some shish ka bob. and I figured that wouldn’t be enough to eat, so I ordered a Caesar Salad to go along with it. The waitress returned with two glasses of water and a basket of bread. As hungry as I was, I devoured the bread, and the kind waitress came back with a second basket of bread. When my salad, which I thought it was a side dish, arrived it was a complete meal. By the time the waitress brought the shish kabob, I was already full and had to take most of it home. Unfortunately, I chose to live for the immediate gratification of the bread, the water, and the salad.
Here is something else to consider about Esau. As a hunter, he had the eyes of an eagle with great physical vision, but he had no vision for his own life. All of us need to ask ourselves-Do we live in the here and now? Or do we live with one eye on this life and the other on eternity?
Instant gratification was something that George Beverly Shea, the lead singer for the Billy Graham Crusades struggled with. Early in his life, he had a chance to sing for God or he could be a success with one of the famous big bands. It was the classic “have it all now or do God’s will and have a better life” dilemma. Then Shea came across this poem.
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold. I’d rather be his than have riches untold. I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands; I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hand.
When Shea read these words, he knew that the Lord’s way would have lasting value, and that became his theme song. Shea had a wonderful career in gospel music and died a few years ago at the ripe old age of 104.
I know many of you by the virtue of your attendance have made a decision a long time ago to follow the Lord and live a better life. Instead of grabbing the first thing that came along or indulged yourself in things that might not have been the best for your life, you chose God’s way, and it has worked out for you.
I am sure when Esau got older he regretted his decision, but it was too late. As Christian believers, let us not make decisions that we will live to regret.