My Husky Jeans
Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. Genesis 25:34
When I was a kid, I felt picked on for my weight. Yes, I was a little chubby and yes, my mom had to buy me husky jeans. Honestly, I’m still not sure if that was a brand name or just the fat-little-kid size. Anyway, I’m sure the mockery wasn’t as bad as I thought, but I didn’t enjoy it. I had one comfort though – I wasn’t the most picked on kid. I’m ashamed to admit it, but there were times when I dealt with my insecurities by picking on someone further down the pecking order than me. At least I’m not as much of a dork as that guy.
I’d like to say this was only a childhood behavior, but even as an adult, I’ve minimized my own failures by comparing myself to those who’re worse than me. Sure, I may be abusing pills, but at least I’m keeping down a job and have a family. Then, as I was losing my job and my family, I had to find someone further down pecking order. At least I’m not in treatment or jail. But then I went to treatment, where I was tempted to look down on the drug dealers and felons. By that time though, I began to understand. Making myself feel better by looking down on others wasn’t constructive, and attempting to gain from the failure of those around me left me worse off than if I was simply addicted.
Today’s passage provides an example of this behavior, as Jacob gained from his brother’s shortcomings. In the story, Esau came home from a hard day’s work to find his younger brother cooking stew. Famished, Esau followed his stomach instead of his brain as Jacob proposed that Esau trade his inheritance for a bowl of that stew. Jacob knew his brother’s impulsivity and didn’t hesitate to take advantage of it. Concerned only for his own advancement, Jacob didn’t care how badly he hurt his brother. Jacob probably even blamed and mocked him for it – Esau is so stupid.
It’s always tempting to play the comparison game, making ourselves feel better – or worse – depending on who we’re standing next to. Our value though, isn’t found by comparing ourselves to those shorter, chubbier, poorer, or more flawed than we are. We’re meant to find our joy, purpose, and meaning only in a loving relationship with God, who loves us despite our flaws. If we desire to know authentic purpose and meaning, then we must not look to others to determine our worth. Rather, we must daily look to God, finding that all our deepest needs are met only in him.