Let us return to our study of Genesis 2-4. So far, we have focused on the conversation between the serpent and Eve (Adam?). Read against the idyllic portrait of God’s creation in Genesis 2 of intimacy between God and humanity, humanity and creation, and men and women, Genesis 3 is a tragic tale in which God’s creational intentions are subverted in favor of an assertion of human autonomy. In his sublime song â€œJokermanâ€, Bob Dylans concludes the initial verse with this commentary on the promotion of human freedom apart from God:
Freedom, just around the corner for you; But with truth so far off, what good will in do?
More frightening remains the reality that the themes of Genesis 3 continue to be played out in the lives of women and men to this day.
What is the temptation of paradise lost? It is quite simple. It is the temptation to substitute our own desires and wants for God’s. Why would anyone want to do this? How does a person end up on this road?
The conversation between the serpent and Eve offers a road map. As we have seen, it begins with a simple question: Did God really say…? In other words, the temptation is to trade a moment-by-moment walk with the Living God for a stale conversation about God. It is reducing God to an object in our lives rather than exalting him as the ultimate subject of our lives. When we take this road, we end up with either a naive faith which involves a mere caricature of God or we become ideologues who promote ideologies and causes rather than the Risen Jesus Christ.
Once God is reduced to an object, the conversation between the serpent and Eve turns to the issue of trust. Can we really trust God? Do we truly believe that the God whom we follow holds our best interests at heart? The serpent in Genesis 3:4-5 blatantly declares that Even cannot trust God, that God is intentionally withholding good things from Adam and Eve.
What is left when we know longer trust God? This is precisely the time at which we assert our own will, our own rights and our own prerogatives. We let our own experiences determine the road upon which we will travel.
Look at Genesis 3:6. What happens? Eve sees that the fruit was pleasing to the eye, good for food, and able to produce in her wisdom. So what does she do? She eats it, and so does her husband.
When trust in God diminishes, we are reduced to acting on impulse. We simply do what seems right. The problem is apart from a vital relationship with God, we lack the ability to discern good and bad, right and wrong. Donâ€™t ever think for a minute that Eve knew the end results of her actions. In the moment, she believed that she was taking the correct course.
Gordon Lightfootâ€™s â€œSundownâ€ rings true:
Some times I think itâ€™s a sin when I feel like Iâ€™m winning but Iâ€™m losing again
Proverbs 14:12 â€œThere is a way that seems right to a person, but whose way ends in death.â€
Tragedy of all of this: God had indeed provided bountiful food for his creation. Sometimes we think that the temptation was based on the appearance of the fruit. Look back at 2:9: this verse tells us that all of the food was â€œpleasant to the eye and good for food.â€ The key then was that it was â€œdesirous to make one wise.â€ In a context when oneâ€™s relationship with God has deteriorated â€“ when we no longer know God and worse yet when we know longer trust that God truly has our best interests at heart â€“ we resort to self-trust, self-reliance, as Paul would say, we live by the flesh. Substitution of self-reliance and self-will for a relationship with God.
What is the end result of this for Christian leaders? Paradise lostâ€¦ God help us and God help those who look to us for spiritual direction during such times.
How do we avoid the cycle of Genesis 3 in our own lives?
Where in your life are you most susceptible to the subtle temptation to honor self above God?
What if following Jesus Christ were the way to move beyond the tragedy of our post-Genesis 3 world and its power over our own lives?
Â© 2006 Brian D. Russell