Do You Appreciate Your Inheritance?
“Pursue peace . . . , carefully watching . . . that there may be no fornicator nor anyone not appreciating sacred things, like Esau, who in exchange for one meal gave away his rights as firstborn.”—HEBREWS 12:14-16.
1, 2. (a) What is an inheritance? (b) What questions arise with regard to a superior inheritance?
PEOPLE have murdered for it. Others have died without ever getting it. Many, having got it, have wasted it. What is it? It is an inheritance. And often that is the way things go when there is property to be inherited.
2 The Bible speaks of inheritance(s) 229 times, and on most occasions it refers to a legacy of land or property. Yet, God’s Word also speaks of an inheritance far superior to any that might be left in a will. And such a superlative inheritance is available to you if you do not disdain it. What is this inheritance? Who grants it? Why do some lose it? How can we show appreciation for it?
What Is the Inheritance?
3. What is the Christian inheritance, and who is the benefactor?
3 When the Jews in Antioch rejected the apostle Paul’s message of salvation, he turned to those who were not Jews, “those of the nations.” “They began to rejoice and to glorify the word of Jehovah, and all those who were rightly disposed for everlasting life became believers.” (Acts 13:45-48) Yes, the inheritance is everlasting life. For a few it means “an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance . . . in the heavens.” Who is the benefactor? “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” said Peter.—1 Peter 1:3, 4.
4. What inheritance is available to the majority of mankind?
4 But what about the vast majority of humankind who have no heavenly hope? Their inheritance can be perfect life as part of the “new earth,” a new society of people redeemed by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. It offers the possibility of everlasting life on a transformed, pollution-free planet. (Revelation 11:18; 21:3, 4; John 17:3) How would you like to look forward to that as an inheritance? If you already do so, do you really appreciate it?
Disdaining and Appreciating a Birthright
5, 6. (a) Who were Esau and Jacob? (b) What was special about their inheritance, and who would primarily benefit?
5 To understand better this matter of appreciating an inheritance, let us briefly review the example of two brothers. One had great appreciation for spiritual values, while the other lost his appreciation for such and consequently lost a very valuable inheritance. They were Jacob and Esau, the twin sons of the Hebrew patriarch Isaac.
6 Their grandfather Abraham died when they were 15 years old. The material inheritance that he left to his son Isaac included large herds of livestock and a field where the family burial cave was located. (Genesis 25:5-10) However, the more important aspect of the inheritance was not property or anything tangible. It was the promise that Jehovah had made to Abraham and had later repeated to Isaac: “By means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.” (Genesis 22:18; 25:24-26; 26:2-5) This revealed that the Messiah, actually the promised “seed” of Genesis 3:15, would come through Abraham’s line of descent at some future date. Since Esau was the firstborn of the twins, on the death of his father, Isaac, he would have the legal right to this promise, as well as a double share of the property. Now the question is, Did he appreciate his inheritance?
7 As the twins grew older, their different personalities became evident. Esau was a restless hunter, “a man of the open country,” whereas Jacob was “a blameless man,” one who “led a settled life.” (Genesis 25:27, The Jerusalem Bible; New World Translation; The New English Bible) One day when Jacob was preparing lentil stew, Esau came in from the field exhausted and hungry. “So Esau said to Jacob: ‘Quick, please, give me a swallow of the red—the red there, for I am tired!’”—Genesis 25:30.
8. What surprising proposition did Jacob make to his brother, and how did Esau react?
8 At this point Jacob made a remarkable proposition to his twin brother, saying: “Sell me, first of all, your right as firstborn!” (Genesis 25:31) He was asking for Esau’s inheritance in exchange for a bowl of stew! Do you think that Jacob would have much hope of success in such a barter arrangement? Apparently he thought that he would. Why? Because he was aware of his brother’s tendencies and sense of values. Was he wrong? Esau, obviously exaggerating his physical condition, answered: “I am at death’s door; what use is my birthright to me?”—Genesis 25:32, NE.
9. How does Esau stand in contrast to his brother with regard to the inheritance?
9 The deal was sealed by an oath, and Jacob served his brother bread and lentil stew. Esau ate and left “without more ado.” Then the inspired record pointedly comments: “Thus Esau showed how little he valued his birthright.” (Genesis 25:33, 34, NE) By contrast, how highly Jacob appreciated the birthright! He was not after property—a burial field and some animals. He wanted the promised Messianic seed to come through his lineage. He wanted the spiritual inheritance.—Compare Matthew 6:31-33.
Would You Barter Your Inheritance?
10. (a) What interesting comment did Paul make regarding Esau? (b) What is the relationship between fornication and Esau’s bartering his birthright?
10 Some 19 centuries later, the apostle Paul used Esau’s example to warn early Christians, saying: “Pursue peace with all people, . . . carefully watching that no one may be deprived of the undeserved kindness of God; . . . that there may be no fornicator nor anyone not appreciating sacred things, like Esau, who in exchange for one meal gave away his rights as firstborn.” Why does Paul here relate a fornicator to Esau’s actions? Because having Esau’s mentality can lead to failure to appreciate sacred things and then to more serious sins, like fornication.—Hebrews 12:14-16.
11. What has happened to some Christians in modern times?
11 Are you sometimes tempted to barter your Christian inheritance, everlasting life, for something as transient as a ‘bowl of lentil stew’? Do you, perhaps without realizing it, despise “sacred things”? For example, in recent times some Christians have fallen victim to the modern moral permissiveness. They seem to have Esau’s impatient desire to satisfy a physical craving. Just as he said to Jacob: “Quick, please, give me a swallow of the red,” have they not, in effect, said: ‘Quick! Why wait for honorable marriage?’—Genesis 25:30; compare Genesis 34:1-4.
12. (a) How have some not shown appreciation for sacred things? (b) However, what action have some taken?
12 Thus what has happened? A desire for sexual satisfaction at any price has become their ‘bowl of lentil stew.’ As a result, they have despised sacred things, including their relationship with Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. They have disdained integrity, fidelity and chastity. They have jeopardized their inheritance. However, some of these have later been stirred to genuine repentance and apparently have regained their standing with God.—Compare Psalm 51.
Why Do Some Fall?
13. What factors can undermine our spiritual values?
13 What causes these immoral tendencies? Could it be that these persons have allowed their spiritual values to be undermined? Many factors can have an insidious effect on our way of thinking—friends and relatives who do not share our principles, even spiritually weak persons in the congregation, a loose work atmosphere, dubious entertainment and reading, a misplaced search for love and affection from unbelievers. All these things can lead to immorality. Could any of these be affecting your sense of values right now?—2 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:6.
14. What danger lies in some modern entertainment?
14 For example, do you find yourself watching television or movies that condone and even promote immorality? It must be admitted that these films can fascinate the fallen flesh—like a whirlpool that sucks down the unwary. They can have a subtle effect on your thinking. This is seen clearly in the powerful influence exercised by homosexuals in the world of entertainment. They have promoted films and plays that justify homosexuality. As a consequence, what was formerly considered a sexual perversion is now euphemized as “an alternative life-style”! The situation has been reached that the apostle Paul described: “Having come to be past all moral sense, they gave themselves over to loose conduct to work uncleanness of every sort with greediness.”—Ephesians 4:19; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
15. How can we avoid the pitfalls of immorality?
15 What is the solution? Keep away from the “low sink of debauchery”! The Bible counsels: “Search for what is good, and not what is bad . . . Hate what is bad, and love what is good.” Ah, there is the real test—actively to hate what is bad.—1 Peter 4:4; Amos 5:14, 15.
16. What standard did Paul set for Christians?
16 If we have the mind of Christ, should we not have scruples about the gratuitous violence, sick sadism and crass immorality presented in most entertainment today? Really, what should our standard be? Paul answers: “Whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.”—Philippians 4:8.
17. (a) What is pornography? (b) How have some contaminated their minds? (c) What is the wise course?
17 Surely it is better and safer to obey the apostle’s injunction. Unfortunately some have ‘continued considering’ pornographic TV, movies and literature.a As a consequence, they have contaminated their minds and hearts with immorality and sexual perversions. How much better it would have been to apply the apostle’s counsel: “Brothers, do not become young children in powers of understanding [in spiritual matters], but be babes as to badness”!—1 Corinthians 14:20.
How Can We Increase Our Appreciation?
18. What can serve as a protection and can help us to appreciate sacred things?
18 An intimate relationship with one’s parents can make one very conscious of their love and principles, thus making it less likely for one ever to disappoint the family. The same is true of our relationship with Jehovah. But how can we strengthen that relationship? By getting to know God intimately. Our deep personal study of God’s Word will help us to know and love him so well that we will resist any temptation. As expressed by David in Psalm 23, we will always feel that our Shepherd, Jehovah, is with us. How foolish it would be to make a grave error while having the Shepherd so near!—Hebrews 4:13.
19, 20. (a) What two problems exist regarding personal study? (b) Why does there seem to be less time now for personal study?
19 However, there are two basic problems. First, for many, personal study is a burden. Due to deficient educational systems, many people today have great difficulty reading. For them, study is an effort. But anything in life that is of permanent value involves effort. Is it not worth the effort to get to know Jehovah, the Sovereign Lord of the universe, our Father and the God of undeserved kindness?—Matthew 6:9; James 4:8.
20 The second problem is a seeming shortage of time for personal study. And yet 30 or 40 years ago there seemed to be time—time to converse, to read, to write letters, to stroll as a family, to meditate. Why have things changed? A form of inflation has affected our time. In real terms a day is often no longer worth 24 hours. Why? Because a “thief” has entered many homes and has taken away much valuable time. Do you recognize that “thief”? Yes, it is television, with its paralyzing influence. One study indicates that “the average American family watches television 7 hours and 22 minutes a day.” That is nearly a third of a day! On an average, how much time do you spend watching TV each day? Daily, around the world, billions of valuable hours of life are lost as people vegetate in front of a TV set. True, some programs are clean, entertaining or educational. But even these can be time consuming. TV’s allure is very seductive.
21. (a) What problem might some have? (b) What do you think is the solution?
21 How can Christians avoid being robbed by this “thief”? Only by means of strict time management. Limit your TV viewing time. Set your priorities—people and relationships are more important than TV. For example, do you resent visitors who drop in during your favorite TV show? And do you find it hard to turn off the TV, even when the program is boring or bad? Then you have a problem.—1 Corinthians 9:24-27.
22. How can we buy back TV viewing time for other pursuits?
22 What practical steps can you take to buy back those precious hours for personal study and relationships? Note the programs worthy of being viewed by a Christian and watch these only if there is nothing more important to do. Some have even taken a more extreme measure—no TV at all in the home! That is a personal matter. But they certainly are not spiritually impoverished because of not having a television set.—Ephesians 5:15, 16.
23, 24. What can we do to show true appreciation for our inheritance? (Hebrews 11:26)
23 What, then, can we do if we want to preserve our precious inheritance and not sell it for a ‘bowl of lentil stew’? Make sure of the more important things in Christian life. Set your priorities and stick to them. Follow through conscientiously to obtain the gift of eternal life, even as the apostle Paul ‘pursued the goal for the prize of the upward call.’ Like Jacob, show deep appreciation for the inheritance. Like Moses, ‘look intently toward the payment of the reward.’—Philippians 1:9, 10; 3:13, 14; Hebrews 11:24-26.
24 How can we motivate ourselves to do all of that? By means of diligent study of the Bible. Apply it daily in your life. Regularly attend Christian meetings and pay close attention while present. Love what is righteous and hate what is bad. No, do not despise your inheritance in order to satisfy some urgent fleshly desire. Your inheritance, everlasting life, is worth far more than any ‘bowl of lentil stew,’ whatever modern-day form that may take!—Hebrews 10:24, 25; 12:12-16.
a Pornography is defined as “written, graphic, or other forms of communication intended to excite lascivious feelings. [From Greek pornographos, writing about prostitutes . . . ].”—The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.
Do You Remember?
◻ What is the Christian inheritance?
◻ How did Esau disdain his birthright?
◻ What danger exists for Christians today regarding their inheritance?
◻ In what different ways can we increase our appreciation?
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Would you exchange your inheritance for a ‘bowl of lentil stew’?