Is it worth the trade?

Esau swore an oath to Jacob, selling his birthright to him. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. He ate and drank and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright. Genesis 25:33-34

beef stew“Who would trade their birthright for a bowl of stew?
You would.
I would.
If it was the right bowl of stew.”

A bowl of stew for a birthright? Are you kidding? Who would do that?
Who would trade their future for something as temporary as a bowl of stew?
Who would throw away their ministry? Their marriage? The respect of their children? Their reputation? Their influence?

It happens all the time. Do you know who would trade their future for a bowl of stew? You would. I would. If it was the right bowl of stew.

These words from Andy Stanley, senior pastor of North Point Community Church, have haunted me ever since I heard this message at the Catalyst ’10 Leadership conference:

“As leaders, we have a heightened appetite for more. More progress. More responsibility. More growth. More respect. More achievement. The internal tension we all face is that these appetites are never fully and finally satisfied. We celebrate the growth of our student ministry, but next semester we want more students. As soon as one project is going well, we want to take on more responsibility. We get into trouble when we think there is something or somebody or a broad enough responsibility that is going to fully and finally satisfy. And we spend our lives, and in some cases make really poor leadership decisions, trying to find that golden ring.”

These appetites aren’t bad–in fact, they made us leaders in the first place. But to lead with all diligence–to be a leader worth following–you must carefully look at the future you are trading for the decisions you make today.

If we don’t get this right, it doesn’t really matter if we get everything else right. If we are ruled and controlled and deceived by the little voice that says a little more, a little more, a little more-if we live and lead that way, we ultimately lose the thing we once considered most valuable.

Leadership is inherently future focused. You lead. If Esau had paused for a minute to consider his birthright, to consider what would have been his future, there is no way he would have traded it for a measly bowl of stew. We would have referred to Jehovah as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Esau. We would have seen Esau’s name in the genealogy in Matthew. Instead, Jacob received the birthright. Jacob received the blessing. And Esau despised what God had given.

What’s your bowl of stew?


Karin serves on staff with Cru on the Global Technology Team. Follow her on Twitter. Read her blog. 

These are a summary of notes taken from the opening session of Catalyst ’10 in a message given by Andy Stanley. He has written numerous books on Leadership and I have been heavily influenced by his thinking.