How could anyone be that stupid? This is the first thing I think when I read the story of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of lentil stew (Genesis 25:29-34). Being a meat and potatoes man myself, I find this account especially dumbfounding; but even if lentil stew were the most delicious meal imaginable, the point would still be clear: Esau had traded lifelong blessings for a temporary benefit.
Now let’s look at a lesser-known, New Testament character by the name of Demas. Demas appears in the Bible just three times. The first is in Philemon 1:24, where he is mentioned as a fellow laborer with Paul for the Lord. The second is in Colossians 4:14, where he is mentioned by Paul only in passing. The third and final time that Demas is mentioned is in II Timothy 4:10, where Paul says that “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.”
Now let us consider modern times and ask ourselves two questions: First, what is our lentil stew? Specifically, what earthly, temporal things are we pursuing to the neglect of serving God’s kingdom? For some of us, this might be our career; for others, it might be a favorite hobby or pastime. Imagine if we were to study God’s word with the same diligence that we study sports scores, the stock market or even our schoolbooks. Imagine if we were to take half a day each week to spend in prayer or to volunteer at a local mission. Many of us spend an equivalent amount of time watching television, playing golf, or shopping the mall, and think nothing of it.
That brings us to the next question: Have we become like Demas? Are we so enthralled with the things of this world, that the idea of committing ourselves to serving God and pursuing the things of the next world seems ludicrous? Perhaps we still attend church out of habit or compulsion, we say grace over our meals and even have a bumper sticker of a fish on our car, but the power of God is essentially nonexistent in our lives. When people observe us at work or at play, they see no difference between our priorities and those of our non-Christian counterparts.
What then are we to do? First, we must acknowledge that “no man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24). Then, we must begin to store up for ourselves “treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20). For some of us, this may mean giving up a time-consuming hobby; for others, it may even mean changing jobs; but for most of us, it will simply mean recognizing that our life is our ministry. Our co-workers are our congregation. God didn’t put us where we are just so we could crunch numbers or change diapers or carve out gall bladders. He put us where we are to be ambassadors for Him to those around us. Isn’t it time we start living as such? “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).