Friday Meditation: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

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In Chapter 1 of The Story, we learn of Adam and Eve, created and placed in the garden of Eden. They are beloved by God, walking in partnership with each other and with him. And they are free to eat of any fruit in this garden, except for the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

It’s hard to understand why eating fruit was such a big deal. Why was this certain tree off limits? It was just a piece of fruit, and it seems unnecessary for God to restrict them from eating of it. But eating a particular fruit wasn’t the issue, it was what Adam and Eve wanted from it. This tree symbolized the sin which plagues humanity: the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve wanted to see like God. They wanted to be like God. They wanted to judge like God.

Today, we are plagued by our need to see and think like God. We want to know the details on every failure around us. Why did the celebrity couple divorce? Who cheated on who? Why is the homeless man on the street corner every day? Can’t he get a job? And we don’t just want to know, we want to pronounce our judgment on the goodness or evilness of the things we see. We think we know how these people should behave. We think we have the answers.

The serpent told Adam and Eve that eating of the tree would make them see like God. But this was a lie, and when their eyes were opened, they saw but a blurry and distorted version of how things really are. They could only focus on their own nakedness and their need to blame another. And today we, too, think we have clear “good and evil” glasses. But all we can really see is our own brokenness, and all we can really do is blame another person for the evil in the world.

In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus addresses this temptation that has plagued humanity since the beginning, this desire to see like God, knowing good and evil.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Part of our Journey curriculum involves writing a narrative of our lives, the key incidents that have made us who we are. This is my third time going through it, and each time, I leave the narrative experience astounded by how complex each life is. Every good or bad decision is preceded by an infinite number of good and bad decisions, by the person making the decision and by others in their life. We can’t predict why people behave the way they do. Even an expert in psychiatry would need hours with a person to be able to sort through why they do the things they do.

Only God is able to see us as we are. And what does the Bible say of this God that sees all of us? He is slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. When Jesus hung on the cross, he witnessed the worst of sinners before him. But instead of proclaiming judgment, he asked his Father to forgive his killers. If we could see with these eyes of grace, then we could see clearly. Then we would see like God. But instead we see with eyes of judgment, blurry lenses that cause us to stumble and fall more than they allow us to proceed.

The next time you desire to pronounce judgment upon someone, look instead into your own heart. Ask God to reveal to you the brokenness that only he can see. Remember how he loves you, and remember how he loves them. This is how our character is formed; this is how we become like Christ.

Rebecca

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Rebecca Rich is married to the Discipleship Pastor, Tom Rich. She adores her two cocker spaniels and can often be found reading a book or asking questions. She blogs about life and faith at Buried Hopes.

9 comments

  1. This is beautifully written and gives me such a better understanding of what really was taking place in the garden of eden, thanks rebecca 🙂

    1. Thank you, Amber! I used to be really tired of the story of the fall, until I heard this interpretation. Then it was VERY convicting and life-changing. It’s easier to think of it just being a random fruit, instead of something you willingly choose every minute. It’s crazy how programmed we are to make judgement about people.

  2. I agree it is beautifully written. A timeless reminder to not be judgmental, to use grace. I ask for His wisdom constantly to utilize grace and understanding, no matter how “small” I think that judgement is. Thank you Rebecca!

  3. Nice! I’d never thought of it quite in this way. It is so true that Jesus see with eyes of grace, whereas we see through a lens of judgment. To be able to see good and evil, but to offer grace instead of judgment or blame–only the Spirit can enable us to do that.

    1. Yes! It’s hard stuff. Easier to just think about the story as a forbidden apple and a silly Eve, instead of something that we constantly choose today. And looking upon people with grace is definitely only something the Spirit can accomplish.

      1. Piercing… true. How God has asked this of me, to look with the graceful eyes of Christ, even in the face of darkness. Thank you for your thoughts Rebecca.

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