“Everyone has a price, you must simply determine what it is,” some have said. In every era and in every country, some judges, officials, police officers, and politicians have turned their back on the law because someone bribed them with enough money to persuade them to sacrifice conviction for cash. Some business leaders have been derelict in their duty because they sought personal wealth at the expense of their company’s financial health. Some adults have sacrificed their children’s emotional and mental well-being and intimate marriage relationships in order to purchase the material wealth of the world. All of these people valued what they could obtain over what was best for their community, business, or family. They had a selling price.
The story of Jacob and Esau illustrates this principle well. Esau and Jacob were twin brothers and sons of Isaac. Esau was a hunter, a rugged man of the field. Jacob was a milder man; a homebody. Esau was the oldest of the brothers and, being the oldest son in the family, had the birthright. The birthright was a legal privilege of the firstborn in which he received a double portion of his father’s inheritance and would become the patriarchal head of the family. He would also receive favored blessings from God through his earthly father that, once given, could not be retracted (ISBE, “Birthright” p.478). However, in this family, Esau would not receive the birthright.
Genesis 25:29-34 records an incident in the lives of Esau and Jacob as youths. Esau, who had been hunting, returned home very tired and hungry. If you have ever been so hungry that your body shook and you felt faint, you may have an idea of the weariness that Esau probably felt. He wanted something to eat, and wanted it quickly. Jacob, who was cooking a stew when his brother returned, used the situation to take advantage of his brother. Esau asked for some stew and Jacob said Esau could have some for a price: his birthright. Through either ignorance or exaggeration, Esau gave Jacob the birthright saying that if he died of hunger it would be of no use to him. After Esau had his meal, he went his way. The scripture records that “Thus Esau despised his birthright.”
Think of all that Esau gave up: headship of the family, a special blessing from the father, and a double portion of the inheritance. Esau gave this up for one meal. Perhaps he thought he could bargain back for it later or that Jacob would realize the inequity of the agreement. Jacob, however, was a cunning deceiver and would not give up such a bargain. As we consider this story, we wonder why Esau would have given up something so valuable for so little.
Yet we should not judge Esau too harshly for we may make a similar bargain. The Hebrew writer uses this incident to stress the importance of living carefully and not be trapped by the deceitfulness of sin so that we would lose eternal life.
“Lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.” Hebrews 12:16-17
Some will sell their spiritual birthright for a mess of stew. As Christians, we have the right to eternal life and the hope that we will obtain it. However, as Hebrews 10:35-39 stresses, we can draw back from God to destruction, cast away our confidence, if we will not endure. Satan cannot take our eternal life from us but he can barter with us to see if we will sell ourselves to him. Satan just needs to know the price at which we will desert God.
Some leave God for the passing pleasures of this world. Though tempted with this, Moses would not sell (Hebrews 11:24-26). Yet some, like the rich young ruler and Demas, would (Luke 18:18-27; 2 Timothy 4:10). However valuable the treasures of this earth may be, we will lose them all when we die. We came into the world empty handed and will leave the world the same way. Only a foolish person would trade eternal life, bliss, peace, and treasures in heaven for earthly treasures that wear away during his life and abandoned at death. Jesus asks, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:26.
Satan lures some away by physical pleasures and earthly fame. The pleasures these temptations bring are empty, short-lived, and fail to satisfy the deepest needs of man. However, the deceit of indulgence leads one to believe that they are living the “ideal” life. Soon, they cannot satisfy themselves with pleasure and they become bored with life. They seek other pleasures to comfort only to see these fail as well. Upon death, they realize that they gave up eternal reality and true joy in heaven and earth for shadows and illusions.
Some will not obey God or will give Him up in order to save relationships with family and friends. Though these are extremely important bonds, Jesus said that if they interfered with obedience to Him, we must push them aside, Matthew 10:34-38. In that same passage, Jesus commanded us to give up our own lives, if required, in obedience to Him. For many, the price is too high. Some will not become Christians or serve God in a way they see commanded in Scripture for fear of offending or alienating their friends or family. Some will deny Christ in order to save their own lives. For them, the price of friends and family, who must also stand before God in judgment, is worth more than an eternal life with their heavenly father and spiritual family.
We could go on with other examples but these are sufficient. What is your price at which you will barter away eternal life? Will you despise your heavenly reward as Esau despised his birthright? Will you sell something so precious for something as insignificant as a bowl of stew; a morsel of food? On the other hand, will you, like the merchant seeking pearls, sell all that you have, even yourself, in order to obtain eternal life and hold onto it no matter the ongoing cost? One thing is worth more than eternal life with God: the thing for which you are willing to exchange your soul. Yet only eternal life has eternal value.