Everybody Gets a Trophy
“When Esau heard what his father said, he let out a loud agonizing cry and wept bitterly. He said to his father, ‘Bless me! Me too, my father!’ Isaac said, ‘Your brother has already come deceitfully and has taken your blessing.’…Esau said to his father, ‘Do you really have only one blessing, Father? Bless me too, my father!’ And Esau wept loudly.” – Genesis 27:34-35, 38
One of the favorite critiques of my generation is that we were raised in a culture where “everyone gets a trophy.” It has made us soft and entitled according to some.
If everyone’s work is praised, the reasoning goes, how will they learn to work harder? If every child believes she is good, what will drive her to be better? If everyone gets a trophy, won’t trophies lose all meaning?!
(And what, after all, could be more meaningful than a child’s trophy?)
This reasoning makes good sense for those who worship at the feet of the market economy, electoral politics, or the National Football League. In such winner-takes-all spaces, there is never enough praise to go around. There is only one trophy to be won.
But for those of us who worship the God of Isaac, and Jacob, AND Esau, the older brother’s words are a powerful call to a different way. “Do you really have only one blessing?” Really? Is blessedness so scarce a commodity? Do you have such little love to give?
Our God answers an emphatic, “No,” and awards a gift that puts every Little League Championship and 4-H blue ribbon to shame.
God, it is almost as if you loved everyone. So why does your love still mean so much?
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.