Besides the stress, trauma, and misery it exerts on the family setting and by extension, the entire human race, global pandemics come with many socio-economic challenges. On March 11, 2020, when the WHO declared the novel coronavirus a global pandemic, it has infected over 269 million and killed around 5.3 million people worldwide as of December 10, 2021, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Socio-economically, the tourism and manufacturing industries have been significantly affected, generating millions of unemployment. Several trillions of dollars in stimulus packages have been released by governments and world bodies to cushion this negative impact.
This response has shed light on various issues, including student debt, digital learning, homelessness, housing, health care, internet, disability service, and food insecurity. At some point, many nations needed to provide food and other logistical supports for their citizenry in some of the partially locked-down cities. According to a United Nations Labour expert, “The economic crisis caused by the Covid pandemic is expected to contribute to global unemployment of more than 200 million people next year, with women and youth workers worse-hit.”
At one point, poor households across Columbia hung red clothing and flags from their windows and balconies as a sign that they are hungry. “We don’t have any money, and now we need to survive,” said Pauline Karushi, who lost her job at a jewellery business in Nairobi. One evening in New Delhi, migrants waiting in food lines fought each other over a plate of rice and lentils. Mr Singh, who was hoping to eat his first meal in a day, said, “Instead of coronavirus, the hunger will kill us.” He continued, “The lockdown has trampled on our dignity.” In San Roque slam in Manila, Ms Mikunog, 28, and with four children to feed, said she was at her wits’ end trying to figure out how they would survive. “Sometimes we talk, and wonder how long this lockdown will last, will we die hungry?” In Venezuela, Mr Bastardo, 25, a security guard said, “We are already thinking of selling things that we don’t use in the house to be able to eat.”
Such was the level of desperation many went through and are still going through to make earns meet and access some of the very essentials of human livelihood. This provided the opportunity for others to also rake in unjustifiable business profits from unsuspecting victims. Various selfish and ungodly demands were also made to the most vulnerable who thought they were not going to survive the times. This article intends to put into perspective, the quest in meeting some of humankind’s essential needs for survival through fair or foul means in the light of God’s promises to His children.
In Genesis 25:29-34, Esau judged an uncomfortable situation he found himself to be life-threatening and did something many have chastised till today. He came home from the open country famished. This is the state of being extremely hungry or starving to death. He asked his twin brother Jacob who at the time was cooking, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” Between siblings, this is not an abnormal request to make except for the urgency that accompanied it. This level of desperation and need is what opened him up for exploitation. People always become vulnerable, and victims of circumstances anytime they demand urgent and quick responses to their requests. At the point of hunger and thirst, fear of the unknown, and hopelessness, many are likely to do everything as requested by their perceived redeemers. Once judged as a life and death situation, the body hormones go through some imbalances that feed into a specific line of action.
Jacob, Esau’s brother, replied, “First sell me your birthright.” There are two possibilities I deduced at this point. Either Jacob had been coveting for that blessed position of his brother all that while or Esau, by his lifestyle appeared to have already placed his birthright on the counter for sale even before that faithful day. As born-again Christians, the devil and his agents are still not at peace with themselves with our newly found state of being heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).
The writer of Hebrews could not have put it any better when he said in Hebrews 12:22-23, “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven….” It is, therefore, not surprising that the devil always presents himself to offer one help or the other in exchange for our priceless and glorious state in Christ Jesus. He went to Jesus with suggestions to turn stones into bread to eat when he suspected He was hungry. Jesus answered the devil, “It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone….” (Matthew 4:4). Let us bear in mind that, as believers, any temptation to disobey God is an offer from the devil to wrestle our birthright from us fraudulently.
As a reply to Jacob’s offer, Esau, said, “Look, I am about to die, what good is the birthright to me?” Esau placed a higher premium on his immediate survival against the benefits associated with his birthright in that quick cost-benefit analysis. He, therefore, would not have done so badly before any human examiner. After all, the saying, “a bird in hand is worth more than two in the forest” would have gone in favour of his arguments. Judged to be a matter of life and death, humans naturally would do everything within their purview to survive no matter how undignifying it may seem. The million-dollar question to ask now is; in such desperate situations, how correct could one’s judgment as real life-threatening be? Given a peculiar situation, will everyone’s judgment and thus response be the same? What then informs some to easily conclude they will die the next moment if their present needs are not met?
To seal the deal with his elder brother, Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” Esau despised his golden treasure, swore an oath to him before he was given a bite, or what the Bible calls “a morsel of food.” What at all came over Esau to act the way he did? Was it the colour of the stew? Or its aroma? Although the stew was red, how many cooking skills did Jacob possess? Was it not Esau instead whose cooking acumen drew his father Isaac closer to him? Better still, even if he was not in the mood for cooking, could he not have waited just a little while for their mother Rebecca’s food which comes served without any strings attached? Won’t Mama Rebecca’s green stew be healthier than Jacob’s red? Today, believers are freely asking our late brother Esau these questions. As the saying goes, “Talk is cheap.” The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life are what unsettled Esau within that short space of time for him to do the unthinkable. Can you imagine how Esau felt after swallowing that morsel into his stomach and realising it was not a life and death situation after all? This old fashioned weapon of the devil that still looks potent today is what also outwitted the first couple in the Garden of Eden. Thankfully, when the devil brought it on in the case of Jesus in the wilderness, He defeated him to set the pace for all who abide in Him to never fall to such schemes.
With the fallouts of the covid-19 pandemic, what demands are people and the system making on your life which conflicts with God’s word? Is it sex for employment? Sex for keeping your job in the organisation? Amorous relationship with your landlord to keep you in that facility? Is it about lying, bribing, or falsifying data for contracts? Stealing at the workplace in the name of hard times? Compromising your stand in the Lord just for a smartphone or internet bundle? Have you decided to stop being faithful in your tithes and offerings in support of God’s work? These temptations are what this article refers to as “Jacob’s red stew”. Falling for them and their related scenarios amount to selling your birthright to the devil in these challenging times. As believers, there is no way our birthright should be on the auctioneer’s list, placed at Walmart, or listed on the stock exchange. The truth is that; you are richer, wealthier, and blessed than your tempter. Satan told Jesus in Matthew 4:9 that he will give Him all the kingdoms of the world and its splendour if He bows to him. In real terms; who is richer? Satan or Jehovah Elohim, the creator, and owner of the entire universe? Similarly, per the benefits associated with firstborns, Esau was by far wealthier than Jacob at the time of this encounter.
In Hebrews 12:16-17, the Bible says, “See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterwards, as you know, when he wanted to inherit his blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.” This act of Esau prepared the grounds for his blessings to be taken from him when their father Isaac was about to die. We set ourselves for defeats, pain, disappointments, and anguish and irreversible consequences anytime we despise our birthright by sinning. I would take this opportunity to entreat all who are in the habit of taking undue advantage of the times to cheat, settle old scores, and making all sorts of ungodly demands from the vulnerable to stop. Jesus told His disciples, “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” (Luke 17:1).
The state of always perceiving difficult situations as a matter of life and death is what makes one most susceptible to manipulations and deceptions. You will not die; it is not as the devil is modelling it to you. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone…” Believe Him and don’t allow anyone to unscrupulously take your gold (i.e. Christ) and replace it with rotten wood. There is always a sure way out designed by Him anytime we encounter difficult situations. Even to the point of death, the three Jewish friends in the land of their captivity defied all odds to glorify the God of Israel than compromising to worship the golden image in Daniel chapter 3. Holding tight the birthright secured in the saviour’s love, one can only agree with the Apostle Paul when he said, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? He continued with the declaration that, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither heights nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39). If none of these can separate us from God, then the negative impacts of covid-19 should not be allowed either. It will surely be over one day. This is what Esau missed in his day. Don’t, therefore, lose your guard.
By Pastor James Agyin (firstname.lastname@example.org)