"Now Jacob cooked a stew, and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. And Esau said to Jacob 'Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.' Therefore his name was called Edom.
But Jacob said 'Sell me your birthright as of this day.'
And Esau said 'Look, I am about to die, so what is this birthright to me?'
Then Jacob said 'Sear to me as of this day.'
So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. And Jacob gave Esau bread and a stew of lentils, then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright." - Genesis 25: 29-34
You may be more familiar with the more famous story of Jacob taking Esau's birthright in Genesis 27, where Jacob disguises himself as his brother to receive the blessing of the first born. But that is really just the working out of this event back in Genesis 25, where Esau gives his birthright away for "a mess of pottage" (as the old King James version says).
It all seems rather ridiculous, does it not? Isaac their father was a successful herder and rich in that culture and the birthright was a double portion of all that Isaac had. And yet Esau just gives it all away - flippantly it seems - because in what seems only like an exercise in the overdramatic he believes he "is about to die". Really, it just sounds a bit of laziness on Esau's part - and after all, one cannot just lose his birthright over lentils (no matter how delicious)?
But it can - and did happen. Esau's birthright was given to Jacob (who, for the record, insisted on getting it the wrong way, thus ensuring a rather long and painful life instead of trusting God's timing).
We may laugh at this of course, think it silly or foolish and by all means a waste - and thereby miss the lesson. Because more often than not, we are just as guilty.
How often have we thrown away our own "birthright" - the good things that God had in store for us - because of laziness or impatience or even simple hunger? How often have we jokingly let go of something that was meant to be a thing of real value - only to discover after the fact that the joke was really on us, that the thing we had surrender in our flippancy was really and truly gone? How often have we spurned what we were offered as a long term gift for which we had to be patient in exchange for a one time meal of lentils and bread?
Perhaps more often than not it is not that God did not hear and answer our prayers or pleadings; it is that we pray and plead with bowl in one hand and crumbs on our face, wondering where God's promised gifts are when in fact we had already surrendered any right we had to them.