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The Esau Syndrome

A dominant driver in our culture is convenience. The business world is obsessed with finding ways to make it easier for us to buy things. We can barely stand to purchase something if it takes more than 3 clicks. You get the feeling that inconvenience must be purged from society.

It’s not just that we hate to be inconvenienced by everyday chores: we are increasingly annoyed by having to do them at all. We want instant gratification without effort or sweat. The danger is that we lose the capacity to develop patience and self-discipline which has always been necessary to the development of character.

The Biblical poster-child for instant gratification is Esau. He was the older twin brother to Jacob. Esau, after a tiring day, gave away his inheritance to Jacob for the price of a bowl of soup. The Message paraphrase puts it like this: “Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God’s blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears.” (Hebrews 12:16-17)

Hebrews 12 deals with the subject of discipline and why it’s necessary. We are encouraged to stay the course when things get difficult. We are to “run with endurance”, “struggle against sin” and, “not grow weary or fainthearted.” In other words, spiritual growth takes some effort.

Time-saving devices are great, but when it comes to the development of our faith, there is no shortcut. It’s necessary to pass through the dark and difficult days in order to strengthen our character. We carry burdens in prayer to develop the muscles of faith and trust. In our suffering, we identify with Christ who suffered for us. The discomfort we feel causes us to yearn for something better. None of these things are convenient and yet they are necessary to our Christ-like development.

So watch out for the Esau syndrome. Don’t trade away the blessings of God for your short- term appetites. That might leave a bitter taste.

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