The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”New International Version
The serpent identified this sin perfectly: we want to be like God.
We want to know what God knows. We want to speak and have our words obeyed. We want to choose our paths and ensure our success. We want others to listen to us and value the wisdom in our blog posts. We want power, and we want praise.
Of course, we don’t use these terms. We assure ourselves in many different ways that the paths we choose and the commands we issue are what God wants, too. We make choices that “obviously” will benefit the Kingdom of God. We follow the lead of other successful faith organizations, so that God’s apparent approval of their plans will imply approval of our plans, too. Of course we pray about these, but our prayers are more for us to inform God than for us to listen to God, for we’ve all had times when God has remained silent to the sales pitches we present. After all, God has all the time in the universe, but we have schedules we must meet.
We have a relationship with God, but as friend to friend rather than as servant to Lord. We like to think of God as our co-pilot, and that makes us the pilot. We determine the answer to the question “What would Jesus do?” should always apply to us. We want to be like God.
Since we are “like God,” our interpretations of the world, of what is good and evil, must be correct, because we are speaking for God. We easily fall into the ancient heresies that success means God has blessed a venture and failure means God has turned away, and we are confident we know enough to tell the difference between success and failure. We manufacture our own version of God’s Word by picking and choosing bits of scripture to take out of context and declaring what we have decided will be “truth.” We intentionally confuse tradition with wisdom and call damnation down on those who would call into question what are genuinely no more than organizational habits.
We’re not only like God, but we’re better than God! God is not as decisive as we are, God does not speak as clearly as we do, and God is out there somewhere while we are right in the middle of everything.
Later in Genesis 3, God sends Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden and puts a flaming sword to prevent anyone from reaching the Tree of Life. It was too late to keep humanity away from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and all us Christians have been sinfully feasting on that fruit ever since.
So what do we do? Here are four suggestions to help us repent from striving to be like God:
- Remember that God is God, and we are not. We need to catch ourselves in our absurdity when we think of God as “one of us” instead of as the infinite Being who breathed the universe into existence.
- Practice patience, letting God decide our schedule. Our culture praises “do-ers” and criticizes “wait-ers”, but God is not bound by our culture.
- Accept our failure and our sinfulness so we can grow. We have a mythology in Christianity that we should be “perfect,” but God knows us better than that! Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd and claims us all as His sheep. What shepherd would expect sheep to develop a business plan for profitable wool production? The Good Shepherd knows that we sheep will get distracted and wander off, sometimes putting ourselves in great danger. We’re so proud we’d rather argue that we intentionally chose danger as “part of our/God’s plan” than to admit that we failed.
- Spend more time in prayer, and less time talking in our prayers. God already knows what we need, so prayer is not so we can inform God but so God can teach us.
God loves us as the people we are, not the people we wish we were. God asks us to return that love, as tiny and imperfect as we truly are. That is amazing Grace!
Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®
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