From Creation To The Flood – Part 4
The Fall Into Sin
Being In Control Can Be Bad
Why do we sin? Why do we get angry? Is it because what we wanted to happen didn’t? In other words, because we were not in control? Why do people steal? Even if they don’t actually steal, why do they always need more? Isn’t it because they need control over things to maintain control over their lives? Why is there racism and oppression in the world? Most people don’t enjoy being unjust to others, or they would do it to everyone all the time. Instead, they are only unjust to strangers or enemies. Why? Is it because they think they are the ones most likely to interfere with their plans, the ones most likely to challenge their control?
Control And Knowledge
We could go through the entire list of sins, but it’s too depressing. Let’s just say that sin is all about the need to control – either circumstances, things, or people. Now, in and of itself, being in control is a good thing. We were designed to be in control; God says so in Genesis 1 and 2. The way we exercise control in creation is meant to demonstrate God’s character.
But control requires knowledge. How were the first humans to get this knowledge? I suspect there were many ways, just as there are today. They could observe patterns in nature, and think about the connections they see. We do this today and call it science. Science is a good thing – the joy of discovery can actually be a form of worship to the Creator.
Another way is to ask an expert – someone who already knows. We call on the knowledge and wisdom of those around us. Our ignorance is a good thing, as it teaches us to respect the gifts of others. And in cases where we have some expertise, it teaches us to be of service to others. It teaches us humility and love.
Remember, Adam and Eve had a lot to learn about their new world. They couldn’t afford the time to observe and think about everything for themselves. They had to ask someone who knew the answers – they had to ask God. So they strolled together in the Garden every afternoon, just after quitting time, but with plenty of time for dinner afterwards. Fruit and salads don’t take much time to prepare. There was plenty of opportunity to take their questions to their Lord. And I suspect that’s what they did. God is always ready to provide even us, his fallen people, with everything we need to do His will; how much more would He have given this innocent pair all the wisdom and knowledge they needed, as they needed it. So where did it all fall apart?
Knowing Everything – Without God
Depending on God for knowledge was not good enough for our first parents. Eve was tempted by the serpent to want certainty, and want it now. He tempted her not to trust that God would help them when needed. She ended up wanting to be in control, without God. As we said before, asking for help teaches us humility; helping others teaches us love. The serpent got Eve to not want to be humble, to not want to depend on God’s love.
And then there was the tree. It looked like its fruit might taste good; but its big selling point was knowledge. This was made obvious by what God called it: “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:9,17). And when Satan tempts, he doesn’t distract Eve with talk about taste or appearance. He goes straight to the key issue: “When you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5).
This name doesn’t mean that the knowledge was just moral. Eve already knew she should not eat this fruit. She already had moral knowledge, direct from God. Perhaps the text puts the opposites of “good” and “evil” together to mean “everything.” In Genesis 1:1 we understand that “God created the heavens and the earth” means that He made everything. Our expression “the long and the short of it” means “the whole story.” So I believe that the “knowledge of good and evil” is another way of saying “knowledge of everything.” When Satan says “you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” he is really saying, “you’ll be like God, knowing everything. You won’t have to ask God. You’ll be in control!”
But the sort of knowledge it offered isn’t the point. What’s important is that it was a way of getting knowledge without relying on God – with God out of the picture, Eve was in control – or so she thought.
This is the key to the sin in Eden, and the central issue in all sin ever since – cutting God out of the picture. It is a refusal to humbly depend on Him. It is a refusal to be open to His love as He stands ready to help us.
We like to be in control, and that in itself is not sinful. We like to know and understand, and that in itself is not sinful. But when our desire to control and understand cuts God out of the picture – when we try to make God irrelevant – that is sinful, because it denies the whole purpose of our being in control. The whole point of our control of creation is to show forth God’s glory. When we act as though God is irrelevant, we deny His glory, and are acting against the very reason for our own existence.
Of course, Satan is a liar and always has been. The only ‘knowledge’ Adam and Eve gained was knowledge of their own inadequacy. And even this knowledge was lost soon enough, as people became accustomed to shame, and even started to boast of it. As Paul says: “Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him, nor were they thankful. But they became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:21-22). Just like Eve! In trying to gain all knowledge, she lost the only knowledge she really needed; the knowledge of God’s love for her, of God’s provision for her every need.
Today we come across philosophers who try to construct an ethical system from natural philosophy. They make observations of the world, or human behavior, or models of social interaction, and then develop a system for behavior that they say “works.” But the very definition of what “works” shows the weaknesses of these systems – they are thought to “work” because they give a reason for ethical behavior. But this reason is man-centered, not God-centered, and therefore it’s the wrong reason. It is a reason that ignores the only true reason for righteous living – to show God’s character in your life!
By cutting God out of the picture, sinful men and women undermine their own reason for existence. It’s no surprise that everything starts to unravel. First, Adam and Eve hide from God among the trees of the garden and then Adam blames Eve and she blames the serpent (Gen. 3:12-13). Remember the first words said by one human about another, the first “love” poem (Gen. 2:23)? Look where love goes when it denies the source and strength of all love. What silly, childish behavior – not unlike that in many marriages today.
And as we all know, unhappy marriages affect the children. Look what happened to Adam and Eve’s two boys. After God didn’t accept Cain’s offering, Cain became angry and dejected, which led him to deceive his brother Abel and murder him (Gen. 4:1-8). The first son born on earth murdered the second. Shocking! Sin is an obscenity, the cause of everything that’s wrong with the world. It is radically destructive. It is a denial of every good thing God has made. God hates it, and so should we.
Putting God Back In Control
Our purpose as Christians today is the same as it always has been – ever since Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day – to show forth God’s glory. We are to show, by our actions and motives, the character of God. And the key part to all this is to acknowledge Him as the One to be glorified. We must base our actions on the knowledge that God is in control. We must be humble, depending on Him for help. We must be eager for Him to show His love by helping us. To ignore Him is sin, no matter what else we do, no matter why we do it.
So we should read the Bible, search out its wisdom, talk about it with our brothers and sisters, and get the full measure of all that God has written to us. And if we still lack the wisdom we need for the task ahead, we should go and walk together with our Lord in the cool of evening, and ask for wisdom. In short, we should put God back in control. In this way, we not only enjoy and share God’s love, we also find our own purpose in life. To mirror God’s love is the most creative thing that we can do.
By Bob Springett
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org