Within the loast fifty years or so, scientists conducted a longitudinal study that all began with a few kids and marshmallows. Maybe you heard of it when you took a standard psychology class in college or maybe you read about it in a newspaper or magazine.
The study was on delayed gratification—to see how long these children could go without eating the scrumptious marshmallow before them. Now, these children were about four or five years old when researchers first set off with this experiment so you can imagine that it would take precious little time for the littles to give in and devour the blessed marshmallow.
The children were told that if they could wait until the researcher returned to the room they would not only get to eat the marshmallow in front of them but they would be rewarded with a second one. The researchers would return in about two minutes, but the children didn’t know that. And when you are five years old and you have a marshmallow in front of you, two minutes is nothing short of eternity.
Video footage of the experiment show the kids thrown into fidgety disarray, doing anything at all to not fall to eating the tempting marshmallow. They would cover their eyes only to peer through the slits made in between their tiny fingers to be certain the marshmallow was still there. Some would stare down the marshmallow with eyes full of covetousness and craze. Some would dare to touch the marshmallow and some would even get dangerously close to the boundaries and lick it just to get a taste of the sweet and fluffy marshmallowy goodness. If you need a little laugh, I suggest you try to find the video.
When the children were a little older, researchers tried this experiment again. As expected, more of the kiddos were able to hold off on their hunger for the marshmallow and wait for the researcher. Though this was a fascinating find for developmental psychologists, what is even more incredible were the results that would come years later when these kids would go through middle school, high school, and grow up to be adults.
From the study, researchers found that the kids who waited to eat the marshmallow—who could exhibit delayed gratification—were more likely to become all around successful adults. However, the kids who didn’t wait generally struggled in school, in their careers and in their relationships, romantic and platonic.
Wondering what this endearing psychology experiment has to do with our walk with Christ and why I’ve spent the first six paragraphs talking about it in detail? Just wait.
Not that long ago I decided to read the Bible through chronologically. I had read it through before but I wanted the context of the timeline. I like to know the cause and effect and what happened in what order. I like to know the story in the way a story is meant to be told—from beginning to end. Because who really wants a puzzle to decipher when they set out for a grand story of unconditional love and unfailing redemption.
A few months ago I found myself diving into the scriptures in a way I hadn’t done in a while. I found myself in Hebrews 12 inspired by the truths God spoke there especially beginning in verse 12. I set out to memorize these scriptures, to write them on my heart. And then I came to verse 16:
“that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.” [emphasis my own]
I bold the last part because that is what I want to zero in on. When it came time for me to memorize verse 16, the story of Esau was fresh in my mind. I underline the word “single” because that’s exactly how I read the passage—with emphasis on that word. I read that passage and I imagine the writer of Hebrews saying, “And that guy Esau, yeah, he gave up everything for one, single, measly meal! Can you believe it?!”
Okay maybe that’s not what the writer was thinking, but in my head I definitely hear a long pause after those words. A single meal. Or a single marshmallow if you will.
Even in material terms today when you weigh the scales for a meal at Panera Bread versus an inheritance, how could one even compare? As delightful as Panera is, the choice here seems obvious. And in terms of marshmallows, I think I would much rather have two than one.
I mean I read the account in Genesis 25 and it seems like Esau is just like yeah, sure just take my inheritance and give me some grub. We are given no indication that he thinks twice about it.
There are two ways this lesson can go.
One, don’t give up what Christ bought and paid for you, for us all who are unworthy on every count to have—our inheritance. Don’t give it up for the insignificance of this life.
Two and what sticks out to me even more, don’t throw away all of God’s future plans for you in this life just because you want something right now. In other words, don’t settle for the first marshmallow when you could wait and have two.
Every day there is a Christian who gives up everything for one, single, measly meal. I’ll admit there were times when I came close. There were times when I full on gave in because what I wanted in the moment seemed so much more important and better than what God had planned for me. I believed my plan was better. I believed I could create a better present and future for myself than the Creator of the universe could.
Hindsight is a funny thing.
Every day someone gives up everything they are promised in Christ for something small and insignificant in comparison. Every day someone gives up everything Christ died for us to have. Every day someone gives up the inheritance that was bought and paid for us with a price that was so great that we will never fully comprehend the far-reaching love that was offered up so we could have it and call it ours.
But ours is the Kingdom of Heaven. Ours is a great inheritance because we are adopted sons and daughters of God. Ours is a bright future full of hope here on earth and in heaven.
Don’t throw away your inheritance, don’t throw away God’s plan for you for a single meal.