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What Use Is a Birthright?

January 21, 2020
By Martin Luther

Esau said, "I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?"

GENESIS 25:32

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What Use Is a Birthright?

This is important evidence of Holy Scripture that Esau has already lost his birthright; for he is judged out of his own mouth. Yet he undoubtedly thought: "I am the lord; I shall indeed sell my birthright, but I shall only fool him. Even if I do sell it, still I can get it back." . . . And today many misuse the doctrine of the Gospel and meanwhile flatter themselves by saying: "Even if I persist in sins and am a godless person, still I shall eventually recover and return to the way." . . . But all these people will finally hear that sad verdict which appears in the Epistle to the Hebrews (12:17) concerning Esau: "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." . . . Thus when Esau says: "I am about to die; of what use is the birthright to me?" he indicates that he is thinking only of his belly and that he is scorning the promise as worthless and unprofitable for the future life, precisely as the Epicureans [those who are interested in material pleasure and allowing passion free reign] say today: "Why is it necessary to hear the Gospel and to make use of the Keys or the Lord's Supper?" But Jacob thinks differently and knows that these sacred things are preparations for the life to come. Therefore he esteems them highly and burns with desire for them.

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