That was a running theme with the Smothers Brothers. For those of you old enough to remember them.
For those of you who are too young to remember the Smothers, let’s just say that the argument that started with “Mom always loved you best” ended with some absurd and humorous story.
What a terrible feeling that would be in real life – to think that your parent loved your brother or sister more that they loved you.
Unfortunately children are often raised with the feeling that their parents are playing favoritism and they are on the short end of the bargain.
It may not even be true – but if the feeling is there – it doesn’t matter if it is factual. The hurt is the same..
Here is what I did with my kids.
“I love you best,” I told my oldest son. “Don’t ever tell the others that I said that.”
Are you shocked that a parent would do that?
Well, here is the rest of the story.
I also told that to my oldest daughter, my youngest son and my youngest daughter.I told all of them the same thing.And it wasn’t a lie.
They were such different personalities, such different people, that I did love them each “best” but differently.My point in doing this was to let each of them know how special they were to me.
The story of Esau and Jacob reads like a “what not to do – cautionary tale”Dad has his favorite and Mom has hers.
I often a wonder how two children of the same parents, raised in the same household, can be SO DIFFERENT! These twins were certainly polar opposites.
“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” Proverbs 22:1.
Here are the meanings of the names given these children: Esau equals hairy H A I R Y not H A R R Y, and Jacob means supplanter.A supplanter is some one who takes what is not theirs and holds on to it. Makes you wonder what were their parents thinking.
Hairy?Imagine how cruel other children would be to a child named Hairy.Especially in the pre-pubescence years when he would not have been hairy.His name would be said in such a mocking tone.
And Supplanter? Oh come on!And he grew up to be devious and manipulative?Who would have guessed?What chance would this kid havc to have grown up with close friends?
According to our scripture reading, these two never got a long even in the womb.Although that could just be a mother’s interpretation of a very active pregnancy. But the prophesy“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.”
How much of this prophesy did Rebekah share with her husband and with the two boys?
The older serving the younger was very much at odds to the cultural expectations.The older son always got a double portion of the inheritance and was the one who received the blessing which was a very real thing to these people in that time.
When we say we are “blessed” we only understand a shadow to what it meant to them.It was something worth going to war or killing for.
So the scene is set and all these years of rivalry between them comes to a head over a seemingly simple thing like lentil soup.
Esau comes in from hunting and says,“Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!”
It must have not been a good day of hunting or he would have something to eat or to add to the pot of stew that Jacob was cooking.
And when he says that he is famished, he is saying that he is literally going to die if he does not eat something.
Really?How far from home were these two boys?It sounds to me like he was exaggerating just a little.
At any rate, Jacob replies,“First sell me your birthright.”Wow! Right of the bat, go for the biggest payday he could ask for.How long has this lust for his brother’s birthright been on his mind?He is the younger son (by less than a minute – he was hanging on to Esau’s heel – so he had to have been immediately after).That fact must have been eating at him for a long – long time.
The birthright.Here is what is at stake.At their father’s death, his property would be divided amongst all his living sons.However it isn’t an equal sharing.If a man has four sons, his property would be divided into FIVE equal shares and the oldest son would receive TWO shares.
In the case of Esau and Jacob that means that Esau would inherit 2/3rds and Jacob 1/3.So it isn’t an ALL OR NOTHING it is only a matter of degree of inheritance.
Do you remember the parable that Jesus told of the prodigal son?The father (who was still alive) gave his sons their inheritance when the younger son asked for it.This means that the father now owned nothing.The older son received his 2/3rds and the younger son his 1/3.Remember how the older son berated his father for holding a party to welcome back the impoverished younger son.He basically says, “You always loved him best,” even though he had received the larger share of the inheritance.
It is all about greed!
Back to Esau and Jacob. Jacob has just ask for his brother’s birthright in exchange for a bowl of lentil stew.What does Esau do?Does he say, “Get real, brother!Just give me some stew and I’ll bring you some wild game next time.”Does he just laugh and walk on home?No! He says,“I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?”
Interesting, While Jacob was lusting after the birthright – Esau thought so little of it that he would trade it for a bowl of soup!Or maybe he thought, “I’ll get the soup now and then deny that I made this deal.”
But Jacob wanted to ratify the deal – to get the notary seal on it.He says,“Swear to me first.”In those days, before legal contracts were written, witnessed, and notarized, an oath was sworn before God that each party would uphold their part of the bargain. And Esau swore it.
For his part of the bargain, Jacob gave his brother the stew and threw in bread and drink at no extra charge.He more than fulfilled his part of the contract.
Where do we see ourselves in this story?
Are we Jacob and we’ve just scored a major (if underhanded) victory over our older brother?
Are we Esau who is more concerned about the immediate present than planning for the future?
Are we the parents who, by our actions, have set these two brothers into this rivalry?
No one in this story is blameless.Each of these characters is living in the flesh (as Paul puts it).They are so much more concerned with the material world that they are ignoring the spirit that God has placed within them.
Paul says, “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
How different would this story have been if their minds had been set on the Spirit?
“Would the parents show love and support for their children and celebrated their differences instead of using the differences as wedges to drive them further apart?
Would Esau have been a different sort of brother?Would he have built a relationship of love and trust between himself and Jacob that would have had him ASK for rather than DEMAND a bowl of soup?
Would Jacob in loving relationship with his father and his brother have trusted them to make fair provisions for him?Would he, in love, insist that his brother sit and eat with him – without his brother even asking?
What a difference it makes to set our mind on the Spirit.
Hear again the words of Paul:But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
Since the Spirit of God dwells in us, we are to treat all of God’s creation differently.We are to lift up and nourish those around us.
In the parable of the sewer, Jesus is asking us to spread seed (the love of God) everywhere.He knows that some with wither and some will flourish for only a little while but some will bear fruit in abundance.
Realize that in this parable,that we are not asked to “Plant” seed.We are to broadcast it.To throw it far and wide even onto unlikely soil.
This is a call to service.
Today we have seen a bad example in the lives of Esau and Jacob who were living their lives strictly in the flesh, that leads to death.
We have had the assurance from Paul that we are no longer bound to the flesh (the material world) that we are now children of God and live in and through the Spirit.
Now that we are no longer bound to the law of death, we are to reach out to those still living in the flesh and bring them to the Spirit of life.