The Evangelical Mess of Pottage

There’s a story in the Hebrew scriptures about twin brothers, Jacob and Esau. The oldest, Esau, was a man’s man. He was hairy (which is actually an important detail that comes up in the story), a successful hunter, and his father’s favorite. Jacob, the younger brother, was a quiet homebody, and it just so happens, the favorite of his mother. From birth these boys were living in a powder keg and giving off sparks. (Yes. You’re welcome)

To add an additional layer of complexity, Jacob was also willing to scheme, connive, and manipulate to get what he wanted. Jacob was a weasel. And very early in the story of these two brothers, Jacob’s willingness to be weaselish  comes to the forefront. 

Here’s the story, found in Genesis 25v29-34, CEB:

Once when Jacob was boiling stew, Esau came in from the field hungry and said to Jacob, “I’m starving! Let me devour some of this red stuff.” That’s why his name is Edom.
Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright today.”
Esau said, “Since I’m going to die anyway, what good is my birthright to me?”
Jacob said, “Give me your word today.” And he did. He sold his birthright to Jacob. So Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew. He ate, drank, got up, and left, showing just how little he thought of his birthright.
Esau is hungry, and Jacob just so happened to be at the right place at the right time to take advantage of his brother’s plight. I mean, Jacob doesn’t really hesitate. There’s no pause, to suggest he’s pondering what to ask of his brother. Why doesn’t he just give his famished brother some stew? See, told you. Jacob is a weasel. 
But Esau seems to have a flair for the dramatic. 
Is he really starving to death? That’s his response, right?  He essentially asks, “What good is a birthright if I’m dead?” And he sells his status, responsibilities, and benefits as the first born son in the family to his weasely little brother. And, when the time came for the blessing of the oldest son Esau’s decision, combined Jacob’s craftiness, left the former hurt, angry, and on the outside looking in. 
The New Testament even takes a swipe at Esau for this decision. 
Make sure that no one becomes…ungodly like Esau. He sold his inheritance as the oldest son for one meal. (Hebrews 12v16, CEB)
Esau’s decision to give up so much for so little should serve as a cautionary tale for all of us. Which brings me to something that happened yesterday. A day ago, hundreds of “Evangelical” leaders met in a closed-door meeting with The Donald, so he could “sell” them on why he was their best friend.
Reports say that Trump began by saying, “I’m so on your side, I’m a tremendous believer, and we’re gonna straighten it out…”
And by most accounts, the vast majority of the Evangelical leaders in the room were eating it up. Many of them are now likely to support this “tremendous believer,” Donald Trump. The problem is, The Donald’s fruit…stinks. If you don’t believe me, a simple Google search would reveal the mean, racist, mocking, non-Jesus-like things he’s been saying all over the country. 

But, to be honest, I’m not surprised by Donald Trump being…Donald Trump. Really. This post isn’t about him. What’s shocking is that Evangelical leaders are willing to throw their identity, morals, and integrity aside…and for what? A bowl of stew. A mess of pottage. Political clout. The chance to influence the world, not through their life and how they conduct themselves, but through Trump’s promise to make Macy’s employees tell customers “Merry Christmas.” That’s the thing: these Evangelical leaders, deep down, are seeking to have their message spread. Yet, they have hitched their cart to the wrong horse (Jesus is the only horse to which Evangelicals should be hitching). And history will not be kind to them.  After all, if you have to sell out your integrity and values to get your message heard, you likely need a new message.

The term “Evangelical” used to mean something. In Greek it means, “good news.” In our culture it means jockeying for power, dominance, and a seat at the table. The very things Jesus said were not to be the norm among his disciples. 

Yesterday, as I watched coverage and read articles about the Trump Evangelicals,  I couldn’t help but think of Paul’s baffled, incredulous, criticism of the community in Galatia:

I’m amazed that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ to follow another gospel. (Galatians 1v6, CEB)

Friends, the gospel of Trump is no gospel at all. The gospel tears down walls, brings healing and wholeness, and seeks real, restorative justice in the world.

A gospel that is not good news, of great joy, for all people is not the gospel. It’s a strategy. It’s political maneuvering. And it’s selling your birthright for a mess of pottage. 

2 Comments

  1. Hey Joshua, (a rather appropriate name by the way for this blog…) I normally don’t post in agreement, and I agree with everything you have stated, but in fairness Yeshua is Lord over all the earth, including politics, and therefore his reign extends even there. Perhaps some of the attenders were not Jacobs’ but folks trying in good faith to speak ‘gospel’ into the event, yet I suspect you know this. But the bottom line is, as you say, we often “hitch our cart to the wrong horse”… Oh that the scales would fall from our eyes!

  2. Hi Joshua,

    Sorry for hijacking your comments sections, but you struck a great nerve for me on this post.

    I just returned this morning from Mexico City, aware that as I preached to the Christians there, I was forced to explain why so many of their “Christian brothers and sisters” in the United States are presently behaving with such hostility toward them and their children. (Think: “wall”). While Facebook armchair critics might spew their diatribes without having to answer for a single word further than the comments section, I do not have such a luxury (and I’m glad for it). To make matters worse, many of these said believers are vocally endorsing a presidential political candidate who constantly maligns and marginalizes Mexico and her people. This is not the Gospel. This is nationalism in sheep’s clothing.

    Jesus’ behavior toward the women caught in the act of adultery (the sexually unclean), the leprous man (the physically unclean), the “Canaanite” woman (the nationally and racially unworthy), the tax collecting Matthew and Zacchaeus (the morally unjust), are ethical plumb lines which mandate our Christian allegiance.

    So grateful for your post. Well said. My prayer is that our evangelical leaders resist the Constantinian temptation of trying to advance “Christian ethics” by way of political power-plays, and keep their bowls of soup for the people who really need them.

    @find_ch

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