What If God Is Better Than Beans?

lentilI will tell you a story from long ago, a tale of two brothers. Twins they were, these young men, but to look at them, you’d never have guessed. One was a hunter; the other, an animal husbandman. The first, oldest of the two by a matter of minutes and rugged as the land he hunted, was his father’s favorite. The second, smaller in bulk but strong in cunning, was his mama’s boy.

One evening the elder brother returned from the field, emptyhanded and famished after a couple days of fruitless hunting. Cresting the hill overlooking the family homestead, he caught a whiff of something delicious. There was his younger brother, cooking a potful of lentil stew.

“Spare me a bowl, will you?” the older brother said. “I’m starved!”

The younger brother dolloped out a generous portion. Oh, it smelled good! His mouth watering, the older brother reached for the bowl . . .

“Just a minute. I did the cooking. You’re about to do the eating. First I want something in return. Promise me your birthright.”

“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?” . . . So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. . . . So Esau despised his birthright. (Genesis 25:32–34)[1]

In the ancient Near Eastern culture where this story takes place, the eldest son typically received a double portion of the father’s inheritance. That’s two shares to Esau from his fabulously rich dad for every one that went to Jacob. We’re talking massive, enduring wealth, traded in a moment for a bowl of beans.

Well, we think, that guy was dumber than a mollusk.

Careful, though. Esau wasn’t the first to tragically undervalue a treasure that was his by right, and he’s hardly been the last. Life is replete with examples of people making bad choices, trading what’s priceless for something that’s here today and gone tomorrow. A marriage for a fling, a sterling reputation for a tarnished buck, freedom for an addiction—you know the story, and maybe you’ve lived it. Thank God for his mercy and forgiveness, and even better, for his redemption. God can turn our worst failings into our greatest assets by his grace.

But we’d be wise to ask ourselves, Is there any bowl of beans for which we’re trading our relationship with God? Because that relationship—not just conceptual but experiential, interactive and thriving like a loving, healthy marriage—is our priceless birthright in Christ.

“This is eternal life,” Jesus said, praying to his Father, “that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3, my emphasis). Getting close enough to God to hear his heart; receiving his life-changing love and loving him in return; experiencing his companionship in the ordinariness and occasional extraordinariness of every day—nothing is better.

Please understand. I’m not talking about salvation; I’m talking about what it is we’re saved for. We were made for a divine love relationship with the Lord of Life, the Monarch of Creation. He wants us—more than we can possibly imagine. Whatever hinders our closeness with him, that’s our bowl of beans.

Now, don’t get hung up contemplating all the ways you fail God. That’s not what he’s about. He’s not out to shame you—he wants to draw you in. If there’s something that hinders you, whether it’s an elephant in your living room or something small but maybe bigger than you realize, he’ll deal with you about it. Just be real with him. Talk to him—and listen.

God is not the author of faint-hearted living or gray religiosity. He’s certainly not out to rob you of joy; he’s the author of joy, and he wants you to have more of it. Which means enjoying closeness with him. He “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” Family time, hobbies, friendships, sports, food, work, play—good, all gifts of God. But he does want you to include him.

Because only he offers you Life with a capital L, and a different perspective on the world around you, and hope, and grace, and wisdom, and all the things that are most important. All of which come to you only through your heavenly Father’s companionship.

Nothing is more precious than that. Nothing is more important than your birthright. Don’t trade it for beans.

[1] All Scripture quotes are from the New International Version (NIV).

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