Sin Gets Its Start
What God says and does, 5
by Everett Wilson
March 22, 2012
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[b]she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.--Genesis 3:6
In his wonderful discourse on creation, The Third Peacock. Robert Farrar Capon says we need to get rid of the idea that only man is free.
I am not enough of a scholar to know where the notion that only man is free came from, except that it is not from the Bible. The serpent was subtle, says Genesis; subtleness requires the freedom to create ambiguity and misdirection. You must be able pretend that things are not always what they appear to be.
This pretension is a necessary component of free creatures at play. It enlivens their conversation whenever one says, "But what if?" That question is a mark of freedom, and others beside God and man are free to ask it. Since freedom is not limited to God and man, freedom is not the exhaustive definition of the image of God.The serpent also was free, but not more than free as God is and the woman was.
The serpent did not begin his conversation with the woman by lying, but with a question that assumed the possibility of more than one answer. He asked if God had forbidden her and her husband to eat any of the fruit in the garden, and she assured him otherwise. The woman—we'll call her Eve, which was the name her husband later gave her—answers his question forthrightly.We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden,3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'"
The second sentence from the serpent's mouth included a lie that slandered God, but half of it was more or less true; and by that time he had drawn Eve into a dialogue—a temptation disguised as a Teaching Moment. Half-truths make for lousy lessons, though.
. . the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die.5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
You will not surely die is the only blatant lie, for they would be doomed to die. But he got it in there unchallenged. Their eyes would be opened, but it would be no blessing because they would learn the difference between good and evil from dreadful experience, not enlightened conversation. And they would become less like God than they had been because they were not confused before Eve forsook the command of God and believed the serpent's suggestions.
Talk is not sin. Disobeying God as the consequence of untruthful talk is sin. When Eve and Adam ate the fruit of the forbidden tree, the world God had made did not cease to be good, but it ceased to be a garden. It became instead an arena where death will hold dominion until the end of time, when there will be finally a new heaven and earth in which righteousness dwells.
What does Eve's story have to do with you and me? According to the Bible, just about everything.
Wilt Thou forgive that sin where I begun,
About the Author:
Everett Wilson's latest book, on sale at the Amazon Kindle store as a e-book, is called When Grandpa Was a Kid. It contains eighteen short stories he wrote for teens and young adults between 1962 and 1974, which were published in the Sunday School papers of several denominations during those years.
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