Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mom Always Liked You Best

That is what Tommy Smothers used to tell his brother on their comedy show, The Smothers Brothers.  Tommy would respond to something his brother said and would get the laugh while his brother looked at the camera in a deadpan serious way.

There are many siblings who agree with Tommy, though.  They grew up thinking that a parent preferred one of their siblings over the others.  Perhaps it was the oldest who they thought was the most responsible.  Maybe it was the youngest whom the parents eased up on the restrictions with them because they felt they had said all they could and this one should have learned from the other children.  Occasionally, it could have even been the dreaded middle child (although that is not the case with me).

Psychologists have studied birth order for many years and there seems to be some evidence that what they say about the order or our birth does have something to do with our personalities.  It is not set in concrete, however, because parental interaction with their children or a lack of it may have even more to do with the kind of adults that they become.

This is true with the story from the Old Testament for this next Sunday.  Isaac married Rebekah and for 20 years they tried to have a child and it did not seem to happen.  Infertility is a major theme in the Bible.  It threatens the promise that God made to Abraham and plagues many women in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Isaac prayed and asked God for a child, however, and God answered his prayers so that Rebekah soon was expecting a child but perhaps God gave her too much of a good thing because she was expecting twins.  The two boys, even in their prenatal state, were in constant competition and Rebekah was in such pain that she wished she could die.  Finally, they were delivered and Esau was covered with red hair so his name became "Red" which is Esau in Hebrew.  Jacob was delivered holding onto Esau's foot so his name became "Grasper" or Jacob in Hebrew.  From the start, they were in competition and conflict with one another.

Esau became an outdoorsman, hunting wild game and Jacob learned to cook so when Esau came back from a hunting trip famished and Jacob was cooking some mighty tasty beans, Esau decided he needed food more than anything else in life, even more than the birthright that was rightfully his as the older twin.  So, Jacob made him swear that he would give him the birthright (which entitled him to security, prosperity, fertility, and land) and Jacob gave him a bowl of beans.  Esau ate greedily as if he had never eaten before in his life and Jacob just smiled with satisfaction at knowing that he had claim on all that belonged to Esau.

This was the first step of the process to give to Jacob what rightfully belonged to Esau.  Their mother, Rebekah, became involved in tricking their father, Isaac, into giving to Jacob what should have belonged to Esau, causing much heartache and trouble to come.

Mom always did like Jacob best.  At least Rebekah liked Jacob best.  The Scriptures do not say why this is so.  It just was the case.  Why do some parents prefer some children over their others?  Why do some show that preference in ways that become clear to their children as they grow up?  What happens between the children as they become adults and have children of their own?  Do the patterns repeat themselves or do people make conscious decisions not to do as their parents have done?  What happens in families where preferences emerge if it is not stopped?

We will think about these and other ideas this Sunday during worship at Weimar UCC at 9:30.  Join us as we read and discuss Genesis 25:19-34.

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