I think we’d all agree—the world is not doing so well. Read the headlines, listen to the news, and we aren’t surprised to find that people lie and cheat and murder, innocent people suffer, and loving kindness is in very short supply. How did we get into this mess?
If you’re a Christian, you probably blame it all on Satan, who enticed Eve into eating that forbidden fruit. The story in Genesis 3 is very familiar; we’ve read it many times. And whether you take it literally or symbolically, the end result is the same. Mankind fell for the lie and the results are all around us.
When our small group leader chose Genesis 3 as his topic for the evening, I admit to being a bit disappointed. We’re going to rehash the Fall? Again? However, once we got started, I discovered that it doesn’t matter how often you read a passage—the Holy Spirit can always teach us something new. This time, what I learned has had a significant impact on the way I look at life. Yeah, it was quite an evening!
Let’s look at the scene described in Genesis 3. At first, God, Adam, and Eve are in an intimate relationship. They hang out together. They’re best friends.
It’s a relationship built on trust. Adam and Eve are trusting that God, in His love for them, will meet all their needs. They had good reason to trust God. After all, He had not only made mankind, He planted a lovely garden for them, gave them meaningful work, and provided delicious food. When Adam realized he was lonely, God provided a wife—one that elicited an excited “Wow!” from the man (see Genesis 2:23).
But now Satan comes along in the guise of a serpent. “Did God really say…?” He inserts a kernel of doubt. “You won’t die!” he lies. His insinuations result in breaking Eve’s trust in God. He has her wondering if God truly has her best interests at heart. Is He withholding something good? “God knows that on the day you eat from it, you will see clearly and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” It’s true, but immaterial in light of God’s command not to eat.
The devil moves on, appealing to her intelligence and understanding. “The woman saw that the tree was beautiful with delicious food and that the tree would provide wisdom, so she took some of its fruit and ate it….”
From a human perspective, Eve did the right thing. She analyzed the situation, examined the benefits, and made the decision to eat. After all, the fruit was attractive. It tasted good. And it offered wisdom, which she was clearly missing. Where’s the problem?
The problem was that she was relying on her own understanding, not on God. And that problem still persists today.
How do we approach a decision we face? We collect and analyze the facts. Which path will most benefit ourselves, or, if we’re being altruistic, those we care about? We may list the pros and cons of each choice. And then, using our own knowledge and understanding, we decide.
- Should we go to college? Which one? What should our major be?
- Which job should I take? What will advance my career? What has the highest salary? Which one will I enjoy the most?
- Should I live in this neighborhood, or that one? Which has the lower crime rate and the nicer houses? What’s the best that I can afford?
And it goes on and on. We pick the most prestigious school, the one that will give us the degree that will launch our successful career. We pick the job based on salary and benefits, and whether we will enjoy the work. We buy or rent in the nicest neighborhood we can afford, where the prices are going up. It’s where our neighbors will be like us, where we’ll feel safe.
And even if we pray about it, how often do we pray, “Please give me…” the job/house/spouse/etc.?
But maybe, just maybe, God wants us to major in something that will benefit the Kingdom, not our checkbook. Maybe he wants us working at a less prestigious job where His salt and light are needed. Maybe that neighborhood needs a godly example living in their midst. Do we trust Him to lead us in directions that have never occurred to us?
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that Proverbs 3:5-6 is one of the most difficult verses in the Bible to obey:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
How do we, as intelligent people, not lean on our understanding? Isn’t that why God gave me a brain?
The word translated “submit” here (and often translated “acknowledge”) is “yada”—meaning “to know”—the same word used for Adam “knowing” Eve in Genesis 4:1. That’s not a superficial acquaintance!
It’s fine to collect and analyze facts, but we shouldn’t rely on them. Rather, we need to rely on God to direct us, through our intimate relationship with Him. We can trust Him to give us significant lives—from His perspective. We can trust His love for us. We need to have the same sort of relationship with Him that Adam and Eve did back in the garden. And we do that through Jesus, who died to give us access to the Father.