“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” – Genesis 2:16-17
Acording to Scripture, at this point in human history, there is no hurt, no loss, no shame, no loneliness, no despair, no disease… Only the command to fill the earth and subdue it. Mankind had dominion over everything, just don’t eat of the fruit of that one tree.” That’s not very heavy-handed. That’s not a ridiculous request. That certainly doesn’t sound like an absolutely impossible task. Many people have asked though, myself included, “Why would God even put that tree in the garden?”
Now this is complete conjecture; as in the Scriptures don’t explicitly say this, but please allow me to offer an explanation for why I think it’s there. The tree is in the garden and a simple rule is given to teach man the delight of humbling themselves before the Lord and walking in obedience. What could possibly be taken from Adam and Eve by the command, “Don’t eat the fruit off of this one tree, but all the other fruit on all the other trees are yours”? But that whole beautiful picture just goes completely off the rails.
Look at it in Genesis 3, starting in verse 1. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden”?’ And 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 midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it…”‘”
Quick side bar, did God ever say anything about touching it? He didn’t! She just added a rule. She just added one little rule on the command given by God. “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.” Pay attention to verse 4. “But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.'” Translation: “It’s no big deal.” Verse 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.”
Do you see and hear the lie? What’s the lie? The lie is that ultimately, “God is withholding from you a joy He doesn’t want you to have. God is withholding from you an experience that’s going to be the fulfillment of that longing in you, and He’s actually robbing you from something you’re entitled to.” Is that not the lie those walking in the license of sin believe? That God is not ultimately after my joy. He’s not ultimately after my fullness of life, so I have to take matters into my own hands.
So then Eve responds to this. I think you know may already know how it goes. Verse 6, “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…” Men, this next line is for us. “…and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Men, if you’re reading this, give pause, because the Bible, from here on out, will attribute the fallenness of mankind and the universe back to this act of passivity on this man’s part.
The Bible does not blame Eve for the fall. It blames Adam, because God had given to Adam care over Eve, for his wife, to love her. This boy is passively standing there while his wife is being lied to, while destruction is being laid out on all that is dear, and he does nothing! The sin of man, to this day, is predominately, in the spiritual arena, his passivity, his refusal to engage his wife, and his family, and the church of Jesus Christ like he has been commanded to.
Now we certainly aren’t to swing that all the way into chest beating, “Do what I say. You better behave. I got this,” because that’s just as sinful. If you want to know the line in this, it’s found in Ephesians 5. Men, if we’re married, we are to love our wife like Christ loved the church in that He loved her and gave Himself up for her. How are you an un-passive, godly man? You lay down your life. You faithfully and patiently serve your wife day in and day out and allow your unmovable love for her to serve as instruction. That isn’t even the topic though, so back to the text.
Watch what happens next, verse 7, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” So there it is, shame, for the first time ever. They’ve always been naked! They were naked this whole time, but they didn’t have anything to hide. Now sin has entered into the cosmos, and what did they realize first? We’re naked. We have stuff to hide. We have to hide some things. Watch them respond, continuing in verse 7, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” Shame has entered the fray. “And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” Their first act after realizing their shame wasn’t to run to God, but to try to hide through means of legalism and self-salvation. The heart of the legalist and the heart of the person trying to find fulfillment by running from God is surprisingly similar.
Let’s keep reading in verse 8, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” Isn’t this legalism? “Okay, we’ve fallen short. We don’t measure up. We don’t know what God is going to do. We surely have the, ‘You’re going to die if you eat it.’ part ringing in our ears. We’ve eaten it, so let’s hid our shame with fig leaves, and then let’s hide from the Lord.”
Charles H. Spurgeon once said, “There is nothing in the law of God that will rob you of happiness; it only denies you that which would cost you sorrow.”
Augustine, the bishop of Hippo, also addresses this in his writings when he states, “Sin arises when things that are a minor good are pursued as though they were the most important goals in life. If money or affection or power are sought sought in disproportionate, obsessive ways, then sin occurs. And that sin is magnified when, for the lesser goods, we fail to pursue the highest good and the finest goals. So when we ask ourselves why, in a given situation, we committed a sin, the answer is usually one of two things. Either we wanted to obtain something we didn’t have, or we feared losing something we had.”
True freedom is not being unshackled to create your own truth though, rather it is through liberating submission to the Truth. Freedom is not the complete absence of any restrictions, but rather the presence of the right restrictions put in place. For example: a fish out of water. The fish is not more free when released outside of the confines of the water, but instead his ability to enjoy life is drastically hindered and he is sure to die.
“The greatest threat to the church isn’t atheism or materialism, but moralism that celebrates a righteousness which doesn’t come from Christ.” – Paul Tripp
Love grows best in the soil of gratitude, not a false sense of maintaining your morality. When we remember the love of our Father, the sacrifice of the Son, and the help of the Holy Spirit, only then are we truly free, and equipped and able to love others. We need the truth and love of God to be where the roots of our hearts reside, because only there can we get what is needed to absorb and grow to love others with true love.
Some of us are still wrestling with this in monumental ways; still walking in doubt because we just doubt God’s affection for us. And that’s idolatry, because what you’re doing in essence is looking at the bloody cross of Jesus Christ and going, “That’s not enough. You’re going to have to show me something bigger than that to convince me You really love me.” Some of us are still wrestling with all of this because we doubt Christ’s affection for us despite the fact that He went to the cross and died for you. He went to the cross despite knowing you, despite knowing every stupid thing you’ve ever done, as well as every single dumb thing you have yet to do.
All the sin, weaknesses, and failures in the life of a believer have already been fully covered by the blood-soaked cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s grace is exponentially and infinitely more powerful than any sin. So we can break the silence, stop trying to hide, walk out into the light, and face the things that God is calling us to face. There is no need to hide, and there really is no way to hide from God; we can only pretend for the sake of appearance to others, but why keep buying into that lie? Let it go, put down the fig leaves. Only Christ can give you clothes of righteousness. We must depend on the Father’s love, the Son’s sacrifice, and the Spirit’s help. We must always run back to God and rest in the Gospel.