The Pitfall of Instant GratificationNovember 17, 2020 - 12:00 am
“’Look, I am about to die,’ Esau said. ‘What good is the birthright to me?’” — Genesis 25:32
Each week in synagogue or at home, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Toldot, which means “offspring,” from Genesis 25:19—28:9
When I was growing up, Heinz Ketchup had a series of commercials with a tagline that my friends and I all knew by heart: “The best things come to those who wait.” Do you remember it?
In each commercial, something wonderful happened to the main character because he or she was willing to wait for Heinz’s thick ketchup to emerge from the bottle. The tagline was successful in promoting the product, and in retrospect, I can appreciate that it was a good life lesson as well.
In this week’s Torah portion, we learn that Esau was not willing to wait for the best things. After a busy day, Esau was hungry and sold his birthright for a bowl of soup. That’s right. Soup. In his short-sightedness, he said to Jacob, “Look, I am about to die… What good is the birthright to me?”
Esau was not actually about to die. Rather, he was expressing his philosophy that life is short, and a person should enjoy as much physical pleasure as possible while they can. He saw no value in the future spiritual reward of the birthright when he was hungry and wanted to satisfy that need immediately Esau suffered from what we now call instant gratification. “So Esau despised his birthright” (Genesis 25:34).
This passage is priceless. It shows us what the dangerous pitfall of instant gratification can do to a person’s mind. The allure of the here and now is blinding. As observers, we can easily see the foolishness of Esau’s decision. He sacrificed his future for a few moments of pleasure. But the truth is that we have all made the same mistake plenty of times!
We are constantly faced with decisions that come down to what feels good in the moment and what is better in the long term. We have to choose between what feels good for our temporal body and what is truly nourishing for our eternal spirit. We have to choose between instant gratification and the eternal view.
This week’s Torah reading reminds us that while it can be hard to adapt to the long-term view of life, it doesn’t make sense to live any other way. This passing moment in time is nothing compared to eternity.
Heinz had it right. The best things do come to those who wait!
Your turn: Today, before you eat your meal, take some time to nourish your soul. Thank God for your food, study a Bible passage, or make a phone call to cheer someone who may be lonely.