I’ve spent some time lately with two men that I had never really noticed before. Both are older brothers like me, and in their culture they are due honor, and a magnificent inheritance. Somewhere along the way, though, their younger brothers ended up with the honor, the inheritance, and left them with less than what they expected. Their younger brothers are heroes, of a sort, while these two men sit in relative obscurity, depending on who you know.
The first man is named Ishmael. For a while, his father’s pride a joy, and later his father’s wife’s castaway. Left to die in the desert, God looked down and saved his life, making him into something great from what would have been another wasted life. Between he and his brother, his brother got the story, but our sympathy is with Ishmael.
The second man’s name is Esau, a man tricked, deceived and cut out by his own twin brother. Left with a consolation prize. Sure, he made some poor decisions and lived life his own way rather than follow the advice of his mother or father but did he deserve such a cold surprise? His story involves one of the most heart-achingly painful moments of realization and loss as he and his father both realize at once that they have been deceived and they tremble, not with rage, but with sorrow.
Many of our arguments and debates in America at the moment hinge on the strong opposing the weak. White v. black. Democrat v Republican. West v East. Mature v yet-to-be-born. If we follow, truly follow, Jesus’ life and message, our lives should be directed toward the weak, rather than the strong. When the next national debate comes on, ask yourself the question: “Who is advantaged here? Who is disadvantaged?” Perhaps, as in the case of Ishmael and Esau, we can all develop some empathy for the overlooked. Or, like Ishmael and Esau, as the older brothers, show humility and quiet strength in accepting the victories of the younger brothers.
Where do you see the disadvantaged that need support? Where do you see strength that needs humility? How do you explain helping those that need help to your children? What methods do you as a family use to help others?