Genesis 3: 1-13
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
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.”
During one of the many debate competitions, I saw my opponent pull out a stunt I had never seen before. It was a simple one. He pulled out a white sheet of paper, took out a pen and made a dot on that paper. He waved it in the air and asked “Hey fellows, what do you see.” I very innocently answered along with others “A black dot, smarty pants.” He laughed mockingly and said “It is a pity that on this white paper all you managed to see is that black dot that I just drew. Why has the white paper gone into oblivion mates?” This act always remained with me. It drew upon the point of how we focus on just a certain aspect of a narrative and feel lost. I have always been very disturbed by the fact that “Why would God stop Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of knowledge?” Now that is where concentrating on the black spot becomes an obvious phenomenon. To illustrate my point let us recollect Genesis 2: 15-17
‘ The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
Here we see Lord God in vs 15 puts him in a Garden and gives him a vocation of ‘tilling and keeping.’
Vs 16 God gives permission to man to eat from any tree in the garden, including the tree of life in vs 9
Vs 17 depicts that with vocation and permission comes responsibility that is defined by boundaries. In the scheme if vocation and permission, Lord God adds prohibition to the scheme of events.
We love permission and permissibility. We tolerate vocation, but we loathe prohibition.
The serpent takes this black dot of ‘prohibition’ to enter the scene. Till now God is addressed in the passage as Lord God but serpent in his conversation addresses only as ‘God’. This means that he denies Lordship of God. This is where he converses with Eve by exaggerating the black dot of prohibition. So there is a clear sequence of sin here.
a) You doubt the Word of God– Serpent succeeds on playing on the prohibition by helping Eve to doubt the Word of God. Eve falls for it as she too exaggerates the prohibition when she says ‘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.’” (vs 3). She adds the factor of “You must not touch” which was nowhere in the Word of God. So the step to sin is when we shut our ears to the word of God and listen to alternate voices that pretend to have our best interest
b) Doubting the nature of God: Serpent in his suggestions helps Eve to miss the paper of abundance of creation. The focus is on the black dot of prohibition of God. He portrays God as one who is a very restrictive God. He tempts the woman to believe that by eating the fruit they will be like Gods. There are three stages to temptation. They are; i) suggestion, ii) delight and iii) consent.
After the doubt is planted, the suggestion of serpent that you can eat the fruit appeals to Eve. She delights in imagining being like God with opened eyes and she finally consents to the act by seeing that the fruit is good and therefore eats it. So whenever we doubt the Lordship of God, temptation comes to us as an harmless suggestion, in which we delight and therefore we finally consent.
We see that Adam too eats the fruit.
After the sequence of sin, let us now see the consequence of sin.
a) Life of hiding and baggage of guilt– Sin produces guilt that weighs very heavily on us. The irony of the narration is that serpent promised Eve that their eyes would be opened after eating the fruit. Well eyes were opened but they preferred to be hidden when God came visiting and calling “Where are you?” They hid behind the trees. They were aware of their nakedness and did not want to be seen. We start to hide from God and our fellow beings. We tend to have a secret life that adds heavily to our guilt. In the New Testament we see a similar character who prefers to remain hidden behind trees when Jesus comes calling. His name is Zacchaeus. We are created to be in communion with God and fellow beings but sin compels us to hide in our shell of sin where the tie with our creator and fellow creatures are severed. Sin is the loneliness of being hidden and not known. If one remembers ‘Confession Groups’ were a rage in Facebook where all sorts of confession were made as people had to come out of their hidden life of deceit that was weighing upon their conscience.
b) Obsession with “I” and Blaming the other: As seen, communion is the zenith of creation. But if one analyzes the dialogue of Adam and Eve, Walter Brueggemann says: ‘The speech of the couple is convicting them. It is “I heard… I was afraid…I was naked…: I hid I ate.. I ate, (Genesis 3: 10-13). It shows that their preoccupation with God, His vocation with creation, permission and prohibition is given up. Now the new preoccupation is ‘I’. When the preoccupation is I, then denial to a wrong doing is the first step which both Adam and Eve practice. And further, the responsibility of Sin is put on somebody else. Adam says “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” It is a master stroke where he blames God for giving him a woman. In 2: 18 God says “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” So Adam here with his obsession with ‘I’ is blaming God by implying that he was better of being alone. He blames also the woman for enticing him in the act. Eve is tad better as she does not blame God, but does not take responsibility for the sin but puts it on the serpent.
The passage we considered is a very relevant one. ‘You too will be like God” is the first advertisement that lured mankind. If only you had a skin whiter than yours, you would be successful. Apply Fair &Lovely. If only you had happiness in life, you would share it. Have a Coke, share happiness. Only if you would have friends would your life be fulfilled. To have friends you need Airtel Internet. In an age of ‘Selfie’ and Social Media, the sense of obsession with ‘I’ is ever increasing. One of the journalist Manu Joseph comments on the online activism of many a youths is the vicarious pleasure of blaming others, may it be individuals, groups, abstract concepts without having any stakes or being directly involved. The negativity on Twitter and Facebook is not just conscientious citizens but an age old obsession with shifting the blame on others and justifying ourselves. We have new religions popping up in contemporary times that sidelines God as God seems to be the root of all problems and ills.
Let me quote from Ravi Zacharias
First Dentistry was painless Then bicycles were chainless And carriages were horseless And many laws enforce-less
Next cookery was fireless Telephone was wireless Cigars were nicotine-less And coffee caffeine-less
Soon oranges were seedless The putting green was weedless The college boy was hatless The proper diet fatless
New motor roads are dustless The latest steel is rustless Our tennis courts are sodless Our new religion Godless.
Robin Koshy says that the first sin was committed when Serpent convinced Adam and Eve to ‘Take and Eat’ the forbidden fruit. To counter this sin of mankind before going to the Cross, Jesus says “Take, eat, this is my body” (Matthew 26:26). When we come to receive the communion we have to
a) Accept the authority of the Word of God
b) Trust in the Grace of God
c) Overcome our guilt and hidden life by confessing our sins
d) Ask forgiveness for our self obsession Loving God and loving our neighbors, and learn to take responsibility for our sins as David said ” Against you and you alone have I sinned…” (Psalms 51:4)
May God lead us and guide us.
Rev Merin Mathew
Bethel Mar Thoma Church
Kolar Road, Bhopal