Are You Trading Your Birthright for This? Jacob and Esau

Your bowl of stew is costing you more than you think! Say what? That sentence kind of made me want to break out into Tina Turner…”What’s stew got to do, got to do with it?” Yeah…about that.

Jacob gets Esau's birthright for stew

“Your bowl of stew is costing you more than you think!” -@ZechariaNewman (Tweet That) | Share this Graphic on Pinterest | Share on Facebook

So what does stew got to do with anything? Well, that’s what Zechariah Newman shared with me recently. He said I can call him Zech, but you should probably stick to his full name. Zech writes and speaks about finding your calling and restoring significance to your life. He’s a smart dude, so check out his site after you read this.

We all want more.

We have desires that will never be fully and finally satisfied, though a lot of times we live our lives as if that one thing out of our reach will unlock our hearts and make us happy forever. This has never happened and will never happen.

We experience these desires through temptation. Here are some of them:

  • food
  • sex
  • stuff
  • progress
  • responsibility
  • respect
  • to win
  • love
  • to have acceptance
  • to be famous
  • recognition

These desires are never completely fulfilled. We don’t fill our bellies full of food and never eat again. No matter how full we get, we still need to eat again a few hours later.

The same is true for all of our desires. You don’t get a certain amount of love and never need to be loved again. There are no you complete me moments. However, we all know someone that has ruined his or her life over one of these desires for more.

Of stew and stupidity

One of the most ridiculous examples of this is the story of Esau and Jacob. This story takes place in Genesis 25:29-34. In this story, Esau trades his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. Wow!

To understand the ridiculousness of this, we need to know these four things about birthrights.

1. Birthrights went to the first born son.

2. The recipient would get a double portion of the inheritance.

3. The recipient had power. They were declared the judge of the family.

4. God put His hand on him and he received favor that the rest would not receive.

So Esau’s choice was completely insane! I have made some stupid choices because of my desires as well. Have you? Here is what was at play with Esau and is at play with you as well.

Impact Bias

Impact Bias takes a simple appetite and it magnifies it out of proportion. Your brain will tell you that you will get way more out of your desire than you actually will.


Focalism focuses our minds on one thing and blurs out everything else. All you can see is that one desire.

Our desires will always say now. Just like Esau, we will be prone to do ridiculous trades. The only answer is to reframe your desire.

Action item: Here is a simple exercise that may help you. Ten years from now, I want, I wish and I hope. Ten years from now will you be happy giving up your birthright for the bowl of stew? No, the stew and birthright were gone in just a few minutes. The same is true for the bowls of stew in your life. Take a step back, reframe your bowl, and look at what you will be giving up.

To refrain, simply reframe.

Matt’s note: I like to pose the same question Zech did in three parts.

  1. What does this make possible? Financially, family, spiritually, personal satisfaction.
  2. What does it make impossible? What do I give up? Time, hobby, sleep, exercise.
  3. Is this what I want to do? Do I feel a passion for it? I am not a believer that following God is all cupcakes and lollipops but I also don’t believe He wants us to be miserable.

Question: What have been some bowls of stew in your life? What long-term gain or dream have you given up? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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15 thoughts on “Are You Trading Your Birthright for This? Jacob and Esau

  1. Great post Matt. I think it all comes down to knowing our calling. This helps us to know our what and our why. Next we need to create a plan to get us from where we are to where we are going. The last step is to create the margin that we need in our busy lives to allow us the time that we need to work our plan. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks Steve. All of the credit goes to @zechnewman:disqus though 🙂

      Great point about the margin. That is so often forgotten.

  2. Right now, my family IS my inheritance. There have been times that I have focused on my own desires that it took my time and attention away from my family. I still have to fight this from time to time.

    Also, while I don’t want to follow Esau’s example, I don’t want to be like Jacob in this instance. I don’t want to be the one to take another’s inheritance.

    • Joshua I hear you. I have done the same thing it is easy to forget the blessing of family.

      • Did you ask by WHOM you were afraid of being rejected?

        That always helps me because 9/10 times, it’s someone that doesn’t matter.

  3. Great post, Zech! To me a ridiculous trade is to give up who you were created to be and try to live someone else’s life.

    • So true Lily! I did this for years wearing a mask because I was scared of rejection.

  4. One of the best measures of maturity is the ability to delay gratification. Stew now, or double portion of inheritance later? There’s always the risk that later won’t come, and then I might miss out on both! A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, or life is what happens while we are busy making other plans are both stew sentiments. Balance, balance, always balance.

    Good stew for thought, Zechariah!

  5. Question number 3 can be replaced with what I think is a much better one … is this what I want to BE. You might want to do something, but not want to BE that type of person. I want the ice cream … but I don’t want to BE an undisciplined person.

    • Good point. I might suggest making it #4. Great example about ice cream 🙂

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