Secular describes the realm of worldly, temporal, unspiritual things, including the attitude toward life of an ungodly person. It was this attitude that ruined Esau. He had been hunting. When he came home, he was hungry and his brother was stirring a pot of stew. When he asked for some, Jacob offered to trade it for the “birthright” that belonged to the eldest son. Esau replied, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” (Genesis 25:32)
The Bible says Esau was more concerned about his stomach than his eternal well-being. The birthright was an important part of his heritage and had high spiritual values for God’s people, but this man didn’t care. He’d rather eat, and while being hungry is not a sin, putting food ahead of a sacred blessing gave Esau a historical designation; both Old and New Testaments record God as saying of him…
Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated. (Malachi 1:2-3 and Romans 9:13)
The New Testament comments on Esau as an example of someone who falls short. Bitterness can do it, as can sexual immorality, but so can having a secular or godless mind.
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. (Hebrews 12:15–17)
Some Bibles translate “unholy” as “profane,” a description of people who judge things by coarse earthly standards, without spiritual understanding or insight. They are aware of every other desire, but have no inclination or desire toward God.
Esau had no self-control, but also no appreciation of spiritual values. To him, the birthright was a vague religious blessing, so when the choice came, it seemed a distant sentiment compared to the here and now advantage of a full stomach.
I could put down Esau, but I know how easily I can drift into that secular realm, to have my spiritual values sail off into the sunset while I busily become taken up with the things of this life. I can forget that all of life is sacred and give up on seeking to be godly in all that I do. As today’s devotional writer says, it is easy when “soul wars with sense” to “depreciate everything that is beyond sense” and let my moral standards sag. It is for good reason that the Scripture warns, “See that no one… is godless like Esau.”
Living below my privileges and spiritual opportunities is equivalent to despising my birthright. I am a child of God, reborn to an inheritance and a joint heir with Christ. I belong to the kingdom of heaven, but when I forget or ignore that, I am disinheriting myself as Esau did.
There are consequences. When secular temptation strikes a weak spot, my spiritual life becomes dim. God’s love and holiness, the reality of His kingdom and righteousness, and my life of faith, prayer and fellowship with Him become shadowy and far off.
Besides that, eating the stew is no profit either. Momentary gratification of even legitimate passions mean nothing when that moment is a trade-off for clarity of spiritual vision and a pure heart. What profit is easy self-indulgence if I trade it for peace, love, holiness and joy? Perhaps the worst is what happens after such a trade-off…
Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. (Genesis 25:34)
Esau had his fill and carried on. He didn’t even notice that his life was impoverished. Only later, when he wanted the birthright did he finally realize it was no longer his — but it was too late to do anything to get it back.