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Summer United: The Esau Syndrome

By July 28, 2017 No Comments

Summer United: The Esau Syndrome

“The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want right now.” Zig Ziglar

At some point we have made a decision based on what we wanted in the moment without considering the long term trade we were making. In the bible, Esau traded his brother what he wanted most for what he wanted in the moment. His story is a illustration of how sin works. We call it the Esau Syndrome.

Genesis 25: 27-34

27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. 28 Isaac (their father), who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah (their mother) loved Jacob.

29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)

31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.” 32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.

Esau traded his birthright, ⅔ of his father’s estate, for a bowl of soup. He made a trade based on his desire in the moment. After he had satisfied his desire with the soup, he had no regard for what he traded. He traded his future promise for a present satisfaction. He showed disregard for his birthright when he failed to take it into account.

When making decisions we need to step back and look at what we really want, compared to what we are getting. Are we gaining a temporary fulfillment of our desires that will leave after the sin? Or are we making a decision that will satisfy our desires for eternity? Sin presents itself in a pretty package but it comes without substance. It promises to move us toward our needs and desires, but instead we experience a setback. Our desires don’t need to change, but the way we try to meet our desires must change.

Hebrews 12:16 MSG:

“Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite.”

There are five things Esau did that we still do:

#1.) He felt real needs/desire

“Sin is meeting a legitimate need in an illegitimate way.” – Andy Stanley

Our bad decisions usually come out of a desire that isn’t evil. The Devil brings an illegitimate way to meet our needs. A way he knows will never keep it’s promise to bring you fulfillment. Sin promises what we think we want, but we find out it wasn’t what we truly wanted after all. Jesus has a legitimate way to meet our needs. If we trust Him, He will take care of our needs and desires.

#2.) He magnified the pain of his current condition

When we have a need that is not being met we magnify the pain. The Devil makes it seem as if God is keeping something from us or there is a need He won’t meet. A bitter root starts to grow in our hearts towards God. We question why God isn’t meeting our needs and if he really is a good God.

We need to take honest stock of our current needs. Our pain may be magnified because the bitterness inside of us has made us lose our grip on reality. We forget all of the promises God has already fulfilled in our lives because our focus is on the pain of the one need he hasn’t fulfilled yet.

#3.) Minimized his future possibilities

Our future with God is unshakeable. We make so many decisions based on today’s temporal needs when we can’t even fathom the unshakable kingdom God has prepared for us. Esau looked at his present and minimized his future. He couldn’t see the possibilities his future would bring him. Our tomorrow has limitless potential, we can’t throw it away for today’s temporary fulfillment. Our eternity with God is worth more than our desires of today.

#4.) He executed the trade

Esau didn’t stop to consider his future, he took the bait of sin. When he executed the trade He wasn’t thinking about His future with God. God had blessed Him with a life to fulfill a purpose. He didn’t have perspective of his purpose before he traded. With God’s perspective he could have realized the possibilities of his future. We need God’s perspective to stop executing bad decisions. To gain his perspective we need to spend time reading His word.

#5.) He despised what he traded

Esau took what he had lightly and traded it. Afterwards, he despised his decision and was angry about what he lost. It is typical to despise our decisions after we trade what we wanted most for what we wanted in the moment. We wish we could take our decision back. We can’t take our bad decisions back, but God can redeem our bad decisions. Jesus died on the cross as payment for our sins. His redemption allows us to live a life without guilt of our past mistakes. He also, forgives us and gives us the power to forgive ourselves for our bad decisions.

Prescription to Overcome the Esau Syndrome:

Sin is a deceptive invitation to trade what we want most for what we want now.

Trade your urgent desire for your ultimate desire. We can’t deal with sin by refusing ourselves because at the end of the day we will still want the sin. Sin is something we shouldn’t want if we could truly see what it was. As Christians we don’t need to shut our needs and desires down, that will cause us even more pain.

Our desire to be loved isn’t wrong, our sexual expression might not deliver what we are looking for.
Our desire to achieve isn’t wrong, our areas of achievement might not deliver what we are looking for.
Our desire for relational harmony isn’t wrong, our dishonesty for temporary peace might not deliver long term peace.

Take your desire and fully express it on Jesus, the one whose  greatest desire is you, no matter what you have done.


We justify trading our ultimate desires for what we want now because we have legitimate needs. If we stop and focus on our ultimate desire, to have eternal life with God, we can wait for God to meet our needs in His timing. Jesus makes promises that he stands behind. Trust Him to meet your needs without making trades you wish you could take back. We don’t live under condemnation, we are a people who need a better way to fulfill our desires. We put all of our trust in Jesus to show us how to meet our legitimate needs. God gives us the power to execute decisions that benefit us.


Listen to the full Podcast:
Podcast- The Esau Syndrome