Daily Readings – Genesis 47-48, Psalm 17, Matthew 15
When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. Joseph said to him, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”
But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.” He blessed them that day.
This story seems to be a running theme throughout Genesis. The idea of the birthright of the eldest son was deeply imbedded into the culture at that time and yet time after time we see it not quite go according to plan. Multiple times we see the younger brother placed above the older and it is always an incredible source of strife.
About the older, we repeatedly hear, “He too will be made into a great nation…” or “He too will be blessed…” and yet that doesn’t seem to be enough. If I am the oldest, I deserve the primary blessing! I deserve more! I want to be second to no one!
This poison of jealousy and comparison is not unique to the Old Testament and to birthrights in the time of Genesis. We may no longer embrace the right of the oldest son, but we have certainly not let go of the belief that we are owed something and become incredibly resentful when there is the threat that it may be taken away. We have definitely not stopped playing the game of comparing our blessings, status, promotions, wealth, etc. to those around us and wanting more. If we see someone else that we think is getting more than they deserve our first thought is typically not, “That is ok, God is showering blessings on me as well. It is alright if they have more even if I perceive it as undeserved.” We have a tendency to jump to jealousy.
In Matthew today Jesus warns, “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts.”
Jealousy defiles. It is an evil thought.
This is not the first time that Jesus has spoken on the idea that we focus too much on our actions and not enough on the heart. When we looked closely at the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus over and over again spoke to people about guarding our hearts and minds; not just our actions.
Jealousy and resentment are two of the enemy’s favorite weapons. They are a silent sin. It is easy for us to barely even realize we are doing it at times. It is less observable. If you struggle with stealing, lying, drunkenness, pornography, etc. it is fairly obvious. Maybe not to others, but certainly to yourself. We often times barely even realize when we are struggling with envy, jealousy, or resentment; and yet one of the Ten Commandments we will see eventually is “Thou shalt not covet…”
It is extremely difficult to focus on loving God and loving others if we are worrying about the blessings that perceive others to have in their lives and how those blessings may compare to ours. It is hard to win people over as a missionary in the marketplace if we are worrying about the “modern day birthright” we feel like we are owed based upon our performance, longevity, loyalty, etc.
Jesus wants our eyes focused on him.
Over and over again in the Old Testament “also being made into a great nation” wasn’t enough; and over and over again in our modern world we ignore the blessings placed in front of us because we are too busy wanting more.
Jesus is enough. The birthright we have in him is an eternal birthright to which all other earthly blessings pale in comparison. When we go about our day with this attitude of thankfulness instead of resentment, we have a far greater ability to share that birthright with others who are still far from God!
Thought to ponder
When was the last time I fell into jealousy and resentment while observing the life of another person? What caused me to stumble at that time?