You may or may not know the story of the “Most Expensive Bowl of Soup in History.” It’s an Old Testament story about how an older brother, Esau, sold his birthright (or inheritance) to his younger brother, Jacob. Genesis 25:30-34. For context, the inheritance was to have come from their father, Isaac, who inherited from his father, Abraham – so this inheritance turned out to be no small thing.
There are additional layers to the story, but I was struck recently by a New Testament reference to that same story in the book of Hebrews that singled out Esau as being “unholy” for selling his inheritance for such a modest price. Heb 12:16. Frankly, it seemed odd to me that this particular act would have been characterized as being so awful when it seemed that there would seem to be so many worse stories to choose from.
Certainly some of the view of the moral implications of selling one’s inheritance would trace back to the culture of the times. However, a recent interaction with a client suggests a broader answer – that there are spiritual dynamics inherent in inheritance generally. Her story is not too hard to understand or describe: Her father married late in life for a second time, and did so very near to his death. There are questions as to whether he was fully competent to do so, and whether he was also cajoled into changing his estate plan to leave all of his modest estate to the new wife. Regardless, after his death the “kids” got nothing and everything went to the second wife and ultimately to her family.
“It wasn’t even about the money,” my client explained – but clearly the entire affair affected her, as it would most or all of us in a similar circumstance. Indeed, there was an aspect of even greater loss of her father because of the lack of an inheritance. There were sentimental items that were lost in the process, and clearly that had an impact – but as we talked, I believe it was clear that had she received something from her father it would have made a difference.
Looking back to Esau, perhaps the right analysis is that Esau’s sale of his birthright for a bowl of soup was not only a devaluing of the inheritance but a rejection of his father, Isaac, and by extension, a rejection of God Himself as the inheritance traced back to the Abrahamic covenant. If that’s so, then the act does become an unholy rejection of God.
In my career, I have seen people approach the disposition of their estates many different ways. Some have broken relationships and do not include their children at all, while still others may choose to do so in favor of charity or some other beneficiary. Regardless of the approach, I suggest that any decision to “cut out the children from the Will” be made cognizant of the spiritual implications on those who would otherwise inherit.
What do you think? Are there spiritual dynamics to inheritance?