“Look, I’m about to die,” said Esau. “What good is a birthright to me?”
—Genesis 25:32 (NIV).
Famous last words! How could such a simple action be so symbolic for a world of events that were to follow? It’s a tale of two nations, notwithstanding these ‘jostling’ brothers (v. 22, 23). Yet, we’ll all do the silliest things for a scungy piece of bread (Proverbs 28:21). These words of Esau’s certainly echo in eternity, as they continue to echo even now.
But there’s even more to this simple piece of psychology—as we see in the face of a surprised adult as they open a free gift, one that’s given to everybody at a conference. Something so common still intuits delight. We love freebies.
The power of the elegant tradeable is hardly believable. If we’re conned by a meal, a free lunch getting most people in, we’re even more turned on by trinkets.
At worst, the elegant tradable is actually a trick in the business of negotiation. At best, it’s a bonus for a purchase or some sort of other deal. Chances are we’ve all been duped—flattered even in the halcyon of our bartering—several times every week as that extra freebie is ‘thrown in’ to sweeten the deal of our tantalising transactions.
From a biblical viewpoint, Esau’s decision to despise his birthright was a throw for an elegant tradable. He fell for the three card trick, giving away something significant for something so transient. I wonder if he enjoyed his lentil soup. Like it must be for adulterous sex, the enjoyment must wane even before the fleeting event is over. How shallow it must feel afterwards.
Of course, there are times when the elegant tradable is nice and there’s no ‘birthright’ at stake—times when we might as well have the freebie. Why would we look the gift horse in the mouth? And trinkets provide a sense of joy when they come without cost; they’re a cheap blessing until the novelty wears off.
The fact of the trinket and the knowledge of the psychology of the elegant tradable should fortify us against this shape of deceptive conciliation action. We’re unwise, and perhaps even a little insane, really to entertain even a moment of it, and we ought to seriously count the cost of something that sounds too good to be true.
And as far as trinkets are concerned, when all is said and done… a trinket is just a trinket. And what are we required to give up?
Is this the odour of compromise we can smell?
© S. J. Wickham, 2009.