What we find in Genesis 25:29-34 is hard to believe yet it’s annoyingly truly; Jacob rushes to make profit out of his brother’s misery. Unfortunately, such avarice continues to taint our relationships even today. If we want to relate a little more humanly with others we certainly need to bridle the little Jacob in us.
First, surrender to me Your Rights of First-born Son
“Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, ‘Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!’…. Jacob replied, ‘First sell me your birthright. ‘Look, I am about to die,’ Esau said. ‘What good is the birthright to me?’ But Jacob said, ‘Swear to me first.’ So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.” (Gn 25:29-34).
Esau and Jacob are brothers yet the relationship between them seems to be charged with selfishness, jealousy, competition, envy and everything else capable of ruining not only the relationship but also the persons themselves. Jacob sees the starving brother as the best opportunity to milk out of him what he has always envied. On this level humanity seems not to have changed much. Even today, how many times do we exploit other people’s misery for our gain?
Misery as entrance door to help or to exploit?
The developed nations capitalise on the misery of Third World countries to make maximum profit for themselves. Take investors for example: to many unsuspicious persons they appear like those bringing development. Yet, as matter of fact, they are only profit seekers. And so they will invest in the country where they will get cheap labour and cheap material for production in order to maximise their profit. They are not concerned at all about the living conditions of those poor persons who labour for them.
We use the power we have, whatever the form, to tie and control other people as we wish but in a subtle way. Some people will appear to be philanthropist by offering a job to a person in precarious economic situation. At the same time they exploit his desperation to impose the most inhuman working conditions in terms of payment and hours of work. Domestic servants and those in piece work jobs are often the most victims. That’s the little Jacob at work in us.
This biblical text should remind me of the times that I might have not been just enough in my relationships with others, especially those in situation of misery. I need to pay attention to the greedy Jacob in me so that I can relate with others in the manner that respects the humanity we share in common.
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