Life is a process of trading one thing for another. We’re all given a certain amount of time and ability which we exchange to gain other things, such as money, food, shelter, relationships, leisure, and pleasure.

We also can trade our identity – who we really are – who God says we are – for other things and if you turn to Genesis 25:29-34 we can read about a shocking exchange between Esau and Jacob that illustrates the danger of trading away who we are.

Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.[a])31 Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” 32 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 33 Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.


This has to be the worst negotiation in history.  Esau’s birthright meant that not only would he get DOUBLE inheritance but it would mean that he would become head of the family and all the benefits that brings.  It is the door to wealth and prestige.  It is the key to future opportunities and provision.  It was designed to be an incredible blessing for his life and his family, onwards even past his lifetime down the generations.

And he swaps it, he exchanges it for a bowl of lentil stew.

I’m sure you’re all thinking what I’m thinking.  How dumb can you be and still breathe?  What was he thinking?

The reality was that he wasn’t thinking.  He was just doing.  Just living.  Just breathing.  Verse 34 says Esau despised his birthright. This verse reveals the underlying significance of Esau’s actions. “To despise” means to treat something as worthless or with contempt. Esau’s willingness to sell his birthright was evidence that he considered it to be unimportant.  He lived for the here and now. “Who needs a birthright?” he thought. “After all, I may be dead tomorrow. What I need now is a good meal. What good is a birthright if I starve to death?”

His birthright should have been something he valued and protected and lived in the reality of – instead Esau trades it away for a bowl of lentil stew.

We point fingers and scorn Esau.  We shake our heads dismayed at the choice he has made.

But we all like Esau have gone astray and we have all played the trade game and exchanged our identity for lesser things.  We have all traded things that we should value in our lives for things that are of the same value as lentil stew.

Firstly, what is our identity?

God does not love us because of our performance; He loves us because of our position as His child.  Because He is our Dad, He loves us.  Simple as that.

Brennan Manning says “Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.”

What gives us our identity is not coolness status, or culture, what labels we wear, how many snap streaks we have or likes on facebook, or our bank account, car model, or relationship status. But chosenness.

God sees the good the bad and the ugly and he says I choose you.  I choose you to be in my family.  I choose you to be my friend.  I choose you to be my representative.  I choose you to be my servant.  I choose you.  I choose you to go out into all the world to preach the gospel and tell people how real I am.  I choose you to lay hands on the sick and they will be healed.  I choose you to do amazing things.

1 John 3:1 says you are a child of God, and the Father lavishes His love on you.  Earlier in the New Testament, Paul writes that we were bought at a price (1 Corinthians 7:23). Your value has never been in question. Your value was set by your creator when He gave the life of His son Jesus. Jesus paid for you on the cross. You are a child of the king. Simple as that.

Ephesians 1:5 says this: God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

God because of the imputed righteousness of Christ to me and his wrath absorbing death on the cross and his resurrection now SEES me as perfect and spotless and holy, not because I am but because HE IS ~ Matt Chandler

So our identity is set.  We are children of God.

Our birthright is that we are children of God.   Ambassadors of the King of Kings.  Ministers of reconciliation.  Friends of God.

From our identity flows our behaviour.  We don’t behave our way into the kingdom – we believe first, and it doesn’t matter who we are and what we do God has made a way through Jesus Christ for us to believe and belong, but that inner identity as a child of God then flows out through the way we live our life.

We don’t clean ourselves up first to come to Jesus, He accepts us as we are, He then cleans us totally up and then calls us to live a clean life.

As Christians we are called to live lives that are characterised by the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  Love.  Joy.  Peace. Patience.  Goodness. Faithfullness. Gentleness.  Kindness.  Self Control.

We are called to live lives of purity.

We are called to live lives of obedience.

We are called to live our lives to a different standard, not conforming to the ways of the world around us.

We are called to be light in the darkness.

We are called to be voices of hope and love in the midst of a world lost and broken.

Everyday we make choices to live within the boundaries that God sets out in His Word, not because God is a kill joy but because these boundaries nurture safe healthy relationships and are benefital to our wellbeing and life.

There are things that God has called you to do, that God has designed you to do – your birthright.  This is your inheritance.


Yet so often we can do an Esau and in the moment of living trade our identity for the equivalent of lentil stew.

Everyday lentil soup is presented to us in the form of choices to trade away our character, trade away our purity, trade away our obedience.


We give up what we want most for what we want now.

We give up the ways of God for the ways of the world.

We give up our calling for compromise.

We trade our treasure for the temporary.

And exchange our dreams for day to day.


I want to take a moment to look at a few specific trades that we can make.  Everyones stew will be different but in following Jesus since I was 16 I have seen these trades made over and over again.


  1. Relationships.

We are created for relationships.  We are created to want to have fulfilling connections, true love.

But its not always easy right.  From finding the right person to being in the relationship to getting the ring on and walking up the aisle there are challenges every step of the way.  And we can be tempted to make the trade.  One of the biggest temptations is to diverge from the instruction God has to marry someone who loves Jesus. I have watched friends go this path and though the staunchly protest that they will keep on following Jesus and that nothing will change even physics says it is much easier to pull someone down rather than pull someone up.  Missionary dating is not a great idea.  There are some people whose testimony is the exception to the rule but it is in the miniority.  The majority of experiences is that it becomes a stew trade.  The real trade in this situation is our trust in God.  He is a good Father who knows you and knows what you need and has plans and purposes for your life.  Jeremiah 29:11 says I know the plans I have for you, plans for good to give you a future and a hope.  We trade our trust in God when we choose to date someone that isn’t a Christian.  Tom Cruise is wrong – a relationship, a person will not complete you.  Only Jesus Christ can do that.  We trade our calling for compromise.

Of course once in a relationship, even if you’re both believers, there are trade opportunities at every corner.  We have an enemy who takes advantage of our desire for intimay and tries to get us to cross lines and boundaries.  Our bodies are designed to respond and staying pure doesn’t happen by accident.  We have to be very intentional about how we conduct ourselves in a relationship so that we protect not only our own purity but that of our boyfriend or girlfriend.  Getting a mentor or accountability partner can support you both in making right choices – to refuse the stew and remain pure.  We trade what we want most for what we want now.

Now you might think that Im aiming at single people or dating people but as married people we can also play a trading game within our marriage.   It’s all good and well to wear the white dress and say the vows but marriage isn’t sustained by what happened on one day, it is an every day choice to love, to grow together, to serve each other and walk in grace.   On that wedding day we cant ever imagine turning into one of those couples – who fight, who drift apart, who get divorced.  Yet we know the statistics.   What goes wrong?  The main problem is that we both people are traders, sinners, saved by grace, learning to follow God and struggling with selfishness.    We trade our treasure for temporay.


2.  Everyday Small moments

Our identity isn’t found in the big moments of life.  Its not the highlight reel that counts it’s the behind the scenes everyday living where life is really lived.   Its Monday.  Tuesday.  At work.  At school.  On good days.  On bad days.  When the rubber meets the road.   Every day life.   You and I don’t live in a series of big, dramatic moments. We don’t careen from big decision to big decision. We all live in an endless series of little moments. The character of a life isn’t set in ten big moments. The character of a life is set in ten thousand little moments of everyday life. It’s the themes of struggles that emerge from those little moments that reveal what’s really going on in our hearts. Paul David Tripp

It’s the small trades that affect the quality of our character.

The tv show we watch.  The words we use.  The attitude we have.   The things we post on facebook.  The way we spend our money.  The conversations we continue.

We exchange the treasure of the righteousness we have as a gift from God for what is temporary and might feel good in the moment.

We speak the harsh word.  We vent on facebook.  We don’t change the chanel or click to another website.  We compromise our character for small moments of emotion – anger, pleasure, lust, fear, pride.

God is calling us to remember who we are.  Children of God.  We are called to be light in the world, carriers of hope and love.   By no means are we perfect, but we often drift into things because we’re led by our flesh instead of our spirit.  We drift into trading because its easier to give into that temptation to speak first or to just react instead of responding.

When we do these things, when we give into the moment we are trading the ways of God for lentil stew.  And it has an effect.  Apart from the obvious relationship difficulties some of these reactions cause – it erodes our witness and our availability for God to use us.

We have a very real enemy who wants to take you out of the equation because of your destiny and purpose.  There are great men and women of God that we can all think of who ended up as headlines for all the wrong reasons and now aren’t serving God.   Those big falls often are preceded by small decisions to compromise.

We must decide whether we want to pursue the call of God for our life or not.  If you do it will cost you.  If you don’t it will cost you.

I love the promise of God in 1 Corinthians 10 – No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

In every temptation there is an escape route if we are willing to look for it and take it.

I also love that God says that He is at work in our hearts to make us willing to do His will.  As we spend time with Him and get to know Him more, as we read the Word of God and hear His heart, as we discover what His ways are, as we are transformed by the renewing of our mind instead of conforming to the ways of the world, then God works in us to make following Him our default setting.

That is a trade worth making.


Let’s look back at Esau now and dig deeper as to WHY he made the What was his motivation?  What is at the root of this issue?  And does it give us any clues as to why we also trade our identity for other things.
New Living Translation
“Look, I’m dying of starvation!” said Esau. “What good is my birthright to me now?”.


Esau was starving.

For us it isn’t a rumbly tummy that leads us to exchange the things of God for the things of the flesh it is often our other tanks that become dangerously empty.

We allow our reserves to become low so that we then scramble to fill those tanks with those other things – relationships, work, addictions, sin, compromise.

Often the root of our exchanges is a low emotional tank, a low spiritual tank, a low esteem tank.

When our tanks are full we often have a greater strength to push back.  When our tanks are full we’re brimming with trust in God, overflowing in faith and able to stand in the time of temptation.

But when our reserves are low, when we are like Esau, dying of starvation, even lentil stew can look appealing, it can look like the answer we need.

So whats the solution?

Stay full.

Be intentional about keeping your emotional, spiritual and physical tanks full so that when the enemy comes to try to distract us, we will stand strong.

Feed yourself with good people around you who will encourage you on the journey.

We fill our lives with the word of God as Psalm 119:11 says I have hidden your words in my heart that I shall not sin against you.  In Matthew 4 Jesus says Man does not live on bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.  Lentil stew will not statisfy!

“Jesus will find you, but here’s your responsibility, to make sure that when He knocks that it is louder than any other knock in your life… The problem is that there’s a whole bunch of knocking in your life. There’s a lot of distractions, there’s a lot of knocking, there’s a lot of noise.. and you have to get to a place that when you hear Jesus knock that it’s louder than any other knock.

You have the ability when Jesus knocks to say “I have many options, there are many things knocking in my life, I could do many things… but Jesus, I choose you in the midst of all of those options, you’re the one that I want, and you’re the one I’ll respond to”

It’s the only way.. I step in the ring with God and I encounter Him, He’s crazy in love with me… and all that other stuff just doesn’t even matter anymore… I think “God I’m so in love with you! I’ll give everything for you!” —  Banning Liebscher


To finish I want to tell you about another crazy trade.  Another trade that will take your breath away and from all natural standpoints is one that would make a line up of critics throw up their hands in shock.

2000 years ago Jesus Christ came and lived a perfect life and then stretched out his arms on the cross to die to take upon himself all the sins and all the punishements that we deserve.  He traded His life that we might have life eternally.  He traded His perfect rap sheet that we might be called not guilty.

By all accounts a crazy trade.  But He didn’t stay dead and rose again and is alive right now.  If you don’t know Jesus He invites you to make that trade.

We all, like Esau, have taken the bowl. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We’re all starving sons and daughters.

Jesus says, “I’m your perfect sacrifice, and if you’ll trust me and believe, I want to give you back your birthright and give you a new life, clean, whole, innocent, forever.”