Friday, February 16, 2024

Selling Out for Stew

By: Lauren Thomas 

When I want something, I want it now. We’re all a little bit this way. Have been since birth. It’s as if we never quite outgrew this part of babyhood. We want what we want, when we want it, as any small child will demonstrate with noisy appeals when they don’t get their way. 

Is it any wonder? We can stream any movie we want without driving to a video store to rent one. We can get same day delivery from some companies. We have microwaves. Everything is immediate. Everything is at our fingertips. Instant is all around us. It has become our expectation.


It reminds me of this account in Genesis:


29 Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.[e]31 Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” 32 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 33 Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” 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.

Genesis 25:29-34


Instant stew. A metaphor for instant gratification. 


Instant gratification. This is a phrase that describes Esau’s desires and experience. Its opposite is delayed gratification. It is a phrase that I heard a lot in adolescence. And the disservice to this phrase is that it was used primarily to address sexual desires and purity. I call that a disservice because the desire for instant gratification, and the difficulty inherent in delaying gratification, is present in numerous contexts, across all kinds of cohorts. We want our instant stew, whether it is sex, comfort, food, satisfaction, dopamine, recognition, money. Give us our instant stew! 


Humanity has struggled with this since Genesis. We continue to struggle with it. From infancy to old age, we struggle with it. Every man, every woman, has struggled with it.


But one man, definitely and defiantly, overcame that struggle. 


looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:2 ESV


Jesus could have chosen instant stew. Satan offered it to him in Luke 4 when he tempted Jesus with power, wealth, and fame. But Jesus chose a better way.


Jesus was able to delay gratification, choosing suffering, so that we could be saved. We were the joy set before him. He endured betrayal, suffering, and the shame of the cross because there was such a great gratification to come. 


We are all Esau, selling our birthright for a pot of stew. Thank God for Jesus, who knew the value of delaying gratification. 


Jesus overcame everything I could not, so that I could, in the end, overcome too, in spite of selling out for stew. 


What thoughts, memories, or feelings are stirred up by the phrases "instant gratification" and "delayed gratification"?

What are some strategies you have used to delay gratification to attain something better?

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