THe Fall in Us All
“[The serpent] said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.”’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ 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, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.” (Genesis 3:1b-7)
Drawing from St. Augustine’s obsession with original sin, many have pinned all sinful inclination back on Adam and Eve and their disobedient action of eating from a certain tree. But there is so much more going on in this story. Sin is rarely expressed in a straightforward manner. Such was the case with Adam and Eve and the serpent. The serpent doesn’t just come right out and say, “Obey me instead of God!” No, “the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made” (Genesis3:1a). The serpent does not come with temptation that is so boldly emphatic on disobeying God.
The serpent actually speaks truth to Adam and Eve, saying that they would not die as soon as they ate the fruit (they didn’t) and in fact they would become like God! The issue here was not that the tempter lied to them, but that they forgot that they had been made in the “image and likeness of God.” Adam and Eve already were “like God!” They didn’t need the knowledge of good and evil to make them such! They were like God in a human-like way; the sinful temptation was to become like God in a god-like way.
Humans are made with limitations that are good for our flourishing. Interestingly, one of those boundaries was innocence in matters of good and evil. Adam and Eve did not know the difference between good and evil, they were like children in that regard. They didn’t judge anything as being either good or bad; they had no concept of good and bad! This child-like innocence is actually a hallmark of being in the kingdom of heaven, according to Jesus (Matthew18:3).
That division of reality into good and bad things, good and bad events, good and bad people…what we might call discernment, was actually the original sin. Every time we make that judgment of separating anything into the categories “good” or “bad” we are living out the original sin, exercising an ability that was not intended to be ours from the beginning. We are placing ourselves in the category of God, the only one who has the right of judgment by nature.
The nature of sin is threefold: disobedience, a desire to extend beyond our creaturely limitations, and assuming judgment for ourselves. So reconciliation to God must look like obedience, embracing our limitations, and giving up our little judgments to the only true Judge.
Cody Nygard, Associate Pastor