Have you ever really wanted something? Maybe there’s a box next to your Easter basket, wrapped in special paper with your name on it. Maybe it’s that gift you’ve been hoping for all year… or maybe you got socks again. You need socks, right? But, maybe you’d rather have something else.
In a letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul says: …“for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.”*
It’s hard to be content (pleased or happy) in all situations. Paul was telling the truth, though – he had learned to be satisfied even when life was hard. In fact, he wrote that letter from prison. Paul hadn’t done anything wrong; he had just been telling people about Jesus. The Bible is full of stories of people who should have lived contentedly like Paul.
Imagine you are the firstborn in your house; the oldest of all your siblings. Pretend that means you get three very special things.
- First, it means everyone treats you as more important than your brothers and sisters. You get to make choices that they don’t.
- Second, you get a double portion of everything your parents give you. So, you get an extra piece of pie, double the Christmas presents, and twice the money for college.
- Third, you get an extra special blessing. That means your parents will sit around at a ceremony, and say all kinds of great things about you. The really weird part? Their blessing will come true! Your brothers and sisters just get to share whatever is left over after you’ve gotten the best of everything.
Now, imagine you take all that special stuff, and you trade it… for a cookie.
Wow. That wasn’t very smart, was it? It’s hard to imagine anyone doing something so silly, but someone in the Bible actually did just that.** Jacob, the man who eventually became the father of the Jewish nation, was the younger brother of a man named Esau. As the firstborn, Esau had those three special gifts you just imagined having.
Esau really loved to hunt. After one of his hunts out in the wilderness, Esau arrived back at camp exhausted and hungry. Jacob happened to be making Esau’s favorite red stew.
“Give me a bowl of that before I starve to death,” demanded Esau.
Jacob didn’t even blink. He’d probably been thinking about how unfair it was that he was born right after his twin brother. “Sure,” he said. “Just sell me your birthright.”
That should have been a giant red flag for Esau. You can hear the alarm bells going off, can’t you? After all, would you trade your birthright –your three special gifts– for stew? Esau did. He swore an oath, and sold his birthright – for a bowl of stew.
It was all downhill from there for Esau after that foolish decision. Luckily, most of us aren’t that silly, right? Esau must have been an exception to most people…
Jacob had a lot of boys: twelve, to be exact. Those twelve boys grew, had boys of their own, and became the mighty nation of Israel.
God loved Israel. He promised them He would send a Messiah, someone to save all mankind from sin. In fact, God told Israel all kinds of important things about the Messiah through his prophets – special men God chose to speak to Israel for Him. The Israelites knew more than 300 facts about the Messiah, like where he would be born, that kings would bring him gifts, and that Herod would kill Jewish children looking for him.
All those prophecies should have made it easy to spot the Messiah, Jesus Christ, right? Jesus fulfilled every single prophecy, but he didn’t look like the Israelites thought he should. They wanted a king to ride in on a great horse and rescue their people. But Jesus was quiet and unassuming. He was born with cows and sheep, and laid in a feeding trough! He wasn’t the king they were expecting.
The really sad part of this story is that many of the people who actually met Jesus ended up trading their birthright for a cookie. They could have been adopted as children of the King of the Universe, but instead they refused to see Him as the Messiah. They weren’t content with God’s great plan for salvation.
Jesus grew from a baby in a manger. He taught about the Kingdom of God, healed people, and showed us how to love. On a Friday afternoon, Jesus – the King of the Universe – was killed, even though he had never sinned. That afternoon, Jesus took the punishment for every wrong thing you have ever done. On Sunday morning, He rose from the dead! Jesus appeared to over 500 people before rising to Heaven.
That’s the end of the story, right?
No! Jesus taught us to live for him, and he promised to return for us. Jesus is coming back, and we can live with him forever.
Unless we trade our birthright for a cookie. Wait, what? That’s right… we can choose to live for Jesus – to make him the Master of our lives – or we can choose to chase after the things that make us happy right now. Anything that becomes more important to us than Jesus becomes just like Esau’s bowl of stew… a very bad trade.
You could trade your future with Jesus for a cookie, but that wouldn’t be very smart, and you are one smart young person. Instead, you can choose to live for Jesus right now, and spend all eternity with him later. Living for Jesus isn’t always easy, but it’s always the very best thing to do.
** Genesis 25:27-34
~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.