Children. One of the most incredible gifts (Psalm 127:3) given to humanity by God. They are considered a heritage to those fortunate enough to receive them. To this day I find myself still struggling with the fact my children did not exist, yet now they do. It’s truly a mind-blowing affair. Perhaps I overthink things. Or maybe we should all lean into the miracles of God a bit more and delight in His power, ability, mercy and creativity so our minds can be blown on a regular basis.
Leading up to the birth of our first child - like many parents - my wife and I had preconceived notions of what our daughter would be like. When you’re new to parenthood it’s easy to daydream of the relationships you hope to have. You plan everything out, attempting to mentally prepare yourself for what’s to come. You can’t wait to hit all of the imagined milestones successfully. The birth, crawling, walking and talking. You envision the first bike ride lesson you’re going to give, the rough housing in play and their wins in a particular sport with you cheering on the sideline. You’re ready to work hard on their education so they can be successful citizens of society that can add value. You imagine them growing up and starting a family of their own. If you practice a particular faith you hope they also adhere to it. You want to see the cycle of life and enjoy the fruits of your labor. And if you play your cards right, your children will take care of you when you become old and cranky.
The problem - as I soon found out - is that children rarely do what you want. And like that iconic Michael Jordan meme, it’s hard to not take it personally. You soon realize that in all of your fantasizing you never really accounted for what the child desired from the moment they come out of the womb. You never accounted for their ability to sin. You fail to account for the necessary repetition you will have to exercise for things to stick. Finding yourself exhausted as you demand your child to use their inside voice for the 205th time. And you certainly don’t ever think your child will become so angry in their sin they’d literally hit or bite you because they didn’t get their way. All at the ripe age of 1. It’s easy to dream about all of the positive experiences you hope to have. After all, you’re going to be the most amazing and dedicate parent of all time, so why wouldn’t things turn out the way you’d expect? Hello hubris. I’m Terrence. Nice to meet you.
I’ve learned like most parents that despite my best efforts to provide an amazing, healthy environment for our kids to thrive, I can’t make them accept the blessings laid at their feet. I’ve learned that as a parent I can love, teach, disciple, discipline, encourage and pray for them. With praying being the chief action. Seriously, children will increase your prayer life by tenfold. Make no mistake. Children can and will bite back whether literally or figuratively. Sometimes both. The crazy thing is, we’ve all been that child. And unfortunately many adults on this planet still are that child.
When God created Adam and Eve He faced the same dilemma as all parents. God creates the perfect environment for them both to thrive. They had everything at their feet as well as a close, personal relationship with Him. Instead of accepting what God had provided, Adam and Eve decided to essentially bite back at God’s hand. They weren’t content with what God was offering so they reached for more. They didn’t want what God wanted. They wanted something that only the forbidden tree could offer. True independence packaged with everything our Creator had to offer.
You have to understand something here. The tree that Adam and Eve ate from had real significance and meaning. Sadly, there are those today who teach that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil had no special power or meaning. That God’s command was more about obedience. Nothing more than a test to see if Adam and Eve would adhere to the command. But I take issue with that perspective. For starters, the Bible doesn’t say God was testing them. And also, because the Bible calls out the Tree of Eternal life (Genesis 3:22) as a tree with very real power. God makes it clear this tree has the power to sustain mankind forever. If we’re to dismiss the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil as nothing but a regular tree that did not open Adam and Eve’s eyes, we must also dismiss the idea that the Tree of Eternal Life did not provide eternal life. To do this causes us to question God’s words. I’m not willing to make that leap. I think we are to take God’s words literally. Especially since He literally kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden for fear they would eat from the Tree of Eternal life and live forever.
For most of my Christian life I used to question why the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was so important. What was its significance? What made this tree special? If the event was really about a simple test of obedience was it necessary to mention the name of the tree considering it was insignificant and powerless? Didn’t Adam and Eve know right from wrong before they ate from it? Didn’t Adam prove his obedience when he tended to the Garden as instructed by God? If Adam and Eve didn’t know the difference between right and wrong why test them on it? That certainly doesn’t seem like something a rational God would do. What does it mean to acquire the knowledge of good and evil? Luckily the answer to all of this is hiding in plain sight.
While Adam and Eve - like a child - had the propensity to disobey, I believe they did not fully understand the gravity of what that meant. They did not know what it was to sin, choosing evil over good. A good analogy would be to imagine a young child who goes back for a second cookie after being told no. As all children - who are under the training of their parents and have not yet reached the age of accountability (Proverbs 22:6) - they do not know they are operating in rebellion against God given authority and falling victim to sin. They’re simply choosing to disobey in order to get what they desire. The consequences and gravity of the situation isn’t fully realized in their young age. And parents exercise almost infinite grace to cover their sins due to their lack of knowledge.
Adam and Eve were unaware of what it meant to be guilty of sin and how one makes amends for trespassing. They did not know what it meant to move away from the Lord God. They did not know what it was to have their conscience bear witness against them. Or to have their thoughts accuse or excuse them (Romans 2:14-15). They did not know what it was to be under the law, far removed from God’s grace. The gravity of their choice which was pure evil and its consequences wholly escaped them. This is what the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil provided. Knowledge of their decision which was a result of their choice to live outside of God’s grace. It’s akin to taking our cookie stealing child and catapulting them into adulthood in a split second; now fully accountable and guilty with no grace to cover them.
After eating from this tree their eyes were opened. I don’t believe in the figurative sense but in a literal way. Their eyes were opened. Not just to understand sin, but to now being under the law, far removed from God’s grace. And if this isn’t bad enough, just wait, there’s more!
This one act of rebellion - eating from a tree that was forbidden - was an attempt to be sustained on something else besides the word of God. God’s word was to refuse the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. By doing this Adam and Eve could enjoy eternal life. How do we know? Because there was an eternal Tree of Life in the garden that they could eat from. This tree, they refused. And God, fearing Adam and Eve would later attempt to right their wrong by eating from the Tree of Life and live eternally in their broken state, ushered them out of Eden before they caused anymore damage to themselves.
Now, I want you to see the significance of how the word bread is used in the Bible. When God curses the ground it is so Adam and Eve could temporarily sustain themselves since they had rejected eternal life.
19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, - Genesis 3:19
The point? Man is to toil in an effort to live, only to still eventually die. Just as God warned. We are unable to be sustained by bread alone forever; unlike what Satan claimed. This is the point God was trying to make to Adam. God wanted Adam to know that in order for him to live forever he needed more than just mere fruit provided by the Garden. He needed God’s word, which he later rejected.
We see this story revisited when Yeshua (Jesus) enters the wilderness so He may be tempted. Satan desires for the Lord to turn stones into bread. Satan was attempting to get Yeshua (Jesus) to sustain Himself by rejecting God’s power. Yeshua (Jesus) delivered the response that Adam should have but failed to do.
4 But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” - Matthew 4:4
Satan first attempted this ploy in the Garden. His goal was to draw man away from God. He revisits this ploy with the second Adam, Yeshua, who passes the test. The Lord rightly points out that man needs every word of God in order to live. This tells us that everything God says has real meaning. After all, He did speak all of creation into existence. Not figuratively, but literally.
It’s a choice
From the very beginning God has loved us. He not only fashioned us together in His image, He also provided us with an incredible environment to thrive. He even gave us the opportunity to choose or reject Him. But just like Adam and Eve, people of today reject eternal life, attempting to sustain themselves on bread alone. What happened in the Garden was not a test. Personally, I hate when I hear this because it misrepresents God’s character. In fact, Adam had already passed the test of obedience when he tended to the Garden and took care of the animals as God commanded. The fact that he was caring for God’s creation displayed his ability to follow instruction.
What God was doing, was offering Adam a choice, not a test. Realize this perspective will radically change how you view God. A God who was testing His creation with a life or death situation for no other reason but to see if He’d obey a command, is different from a God who was offering His creation a choice to love Him back. It was a choice between eternal life with God, or death without His sustaining power. It was a choice between God’s grace or being under the Law. It was a choice to live God’s way or man’s way. It’s the same choice God has given all of us. We can choose eternal life with Him, or we can reject it. He gives us this choice because He loves us. And true love does not force anyone to love back.
Remember, we all need God’s word to sustain us daily. None of us can live on bread alone. And our short lives which are full of toil are a reminder of what took place in Eden.