Guest contributor: Ed Trego
In Romans, chapter 7, verse 15 Paul says, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” I take a lot of comfort from these words. If the great Saint and evangelist Paul had trouble doing the good things he wanted and avoiding sin, then maybe there’s hope for me as well. At least I know I’m not the only one who can’t seem to avoid sin even though I hate it.
Why do I have such a hard time with sin? I know that I don’t want to sin, but I do anyway. This is, at least in part, the result of original sin. As a result of Adam’s sin, sin has become part of our nature, it’s in our DNA. But exactly what was Adam’s sin. I had always considered Adam’s sin essentially a sin of disobedience. God had forbidden something and Adam and Eve had ignored the rule of God. But I don’t think that is whole story. If eating from the tree of knowledge, a sin of disobedience to God, were all of it, we should say that sin entered the world through Eve, since she was the first to commit that sin. But we don’t, we say sin entered the world through Adam. That would seem to indicate that Adam sinned in some way before Eve ate the fruit.
God had given Adam and Eve everything they could possibly want. They would never know pain or illness or death. All of their needs would have been met. There was only one, relatively minor exception; the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Of course, we all know that the easiest way to pique our interest is to tell us we can’t have something. Immediately, it becomes the one thing we almost have to have. I can almost picture Adam and Eve standing in the Garden of Eden, surrounded by everything they needed, looking at the one tree they were forbidden and thinking, “Man, I bet that fruit tastes really good. If only we could have some of that, we would really be happy”. I can also picture Satan standing to the side watching and thinking that this was his chance to undo some of the good work that God had done.
As I’ve thought about this there is another thing that has puzzled me. Why did Satan choose to tempt Eve? Why not Adam? After all, Adam was supposed to be head of the family. He was the one who should have been the natural target if Satan was interested in trying to destroy man’s relationship with God. But instead, he went after Eve. Possibly because of Eve’s supposed weakness before Satan women ever since have been accused of being the weaker sex. But if we think about it, Adam was actually the weaker of the two. At least Eve had the courage to try to take a stand against Satan’s temptation. She tried to defend God’s rule concerning the tree. And finally, she did have the courage to make a decision, even though it was the wrong one. In Genesis, chapter 3 verse 6 it says “she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband and he ate it.” So, Adam was right there the whole time Eve was being tempted. But he never took any action to stop Eve. As the story is told in Genesis, he didn’t even try. And he didn’t do the one thing that should have been first on his mind. He didn’t call out for God’s help. That, I believe, was the original sin of Adam, a sin of pride and self-reliance. Had he asked, I’m certain that God would have taken care of Satan and his temptations and man would have continued to live in paradise. At least until someone else forgot to call on God when they should.
But still, why did Satan tempt Eve? I don’t think it was because he thought she was weak. I think he knew that Adam would just sit there and let it happen. I also think he knew that if he could convince Eve, Adam would follow. We have to admit that there are times when someone else makes decisions that we don’t always agree with but we go along to get along.
I also think that it’s sometimes easier to accomplish what you want if you don’t directly confront the one you are targeting. It’s a little like spreading rumor and gossip. It isn’t the one who is told the rumors that is really harmed, but the one who is the subject of the rumors. That way we can attack someone but we don’t have to do it face to face. We can be sure it will get back to them, but we don’t have to have the courage to face them ourselves. Maybe Satan knew that if he directly confronted Adam he would fight back, if only to prove to Eve that he could. But if he could just get Eve to give in, Adam would then give in to Eve. And what did Adam do? He just sat there and let it happen to Eve and then gave in himself. Not exactly a picture of faith and courage, our Adam.
Another interesting part of the story is that Satan didn’t technically lie to Eve when tempting her. In Genesis 3:3-5 Eve told Satan that God had said of the tree in the middle of the Garden “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you 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.” Then Eve ate it, and she didn’t die; at least not in a physical sense. And they knew what was good and bad, since they then realized that they were naked and made clothes to cover themselves. So old Satan didn’t actually “lie” to them, he just didn’t tell the whole truth. They didn’t physically die, but they died spiritually. From that point on, they had broken their covenant with God, which is really what sin always does to us. It breaks our relationship with God and encourages us to sin even more.
Isn’t that the way Satan also tempts us many times. A direct assault might result in a fight that would bring God into the picture. But a little bit of misstating the truth will make us think and try to reason with Satan. Reason with Satan, now there’s a formula for disaster. Our only hope is in God and we are so arrogant that we think we can defeat Satan through our own efforts and intelligence.
So, now they have had a taste of the tree of knowledge and God shows up. To read Genesis it sounds like God didn’t know what was going on until he came upon Adam and Eve hiding from him wearing their fig leaves. Of course, he knew exactly what was going on. His prized creation, the one he had created “in His own likeness” and had given dominion over everything had just failed their first test. What happened next also shows the true weakness of Adam. When God finally corners him on what he had done, what was his response? He points directly at Eve and says “The woman whom You put here with me – she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.” Adam doesn’t seem to be the bravest guy around does he? First he lets Satan tempt his wife, and then he blames her for giving him the fruit. And, oh by the way God, it’s Your fault too since You are the one who put the woman here with me. Like everything would have been OK if God had just given him another puppy dog instead of his soul mate. Don’t we do the same thing? When we get caught, don’t we usually look for an excuse for why we really aren’t responsible for what happened? Then there’s always the old standby; the devil made me do it. All that was really required to avoid the sin in the first place was to ask for God’s help.
So Adam and Eve, and the rest of humanity, paid the price for all eternity. However, don’t we still commit the same sin as Adam? If his sin was failing to call on God for the strength to resist temptation, don’t we do that every day? How many times have you heard a co-worker or maybe a friend say something that we know is sinful and against God? How many of those times have you confronted the person and pointed out their error? We usually just think it, or at best, say it under our breath. Or we make it even worse by not saying anything to the offender, but talking about them behind their back to someone else. We don’t want to offend anyone, we say, so we keep our mouths shut. Oh, and of course there’s that rule about judging others. Isn’t that convenient? After all, even the bible says “Judge not lest ye be judged”, right? On this point, we usually are pretty good at following the bible’s advice. We say to ourselves that we are doing the right thing because we are not judging. Do you think maybe Adam was thinking the same thing while the flesh of his flesh and the bone of his bone was being tempted into condemnation? Maybe he was sitting there thinking, “Well I could say something but, gee, I don’t want to raise a stink and start trouble. After all, God is the one who made these rules, let him enforce them.” Can you picture yourself allowing your wife to be convinced to do something that you know full well is harmful to her, and not try to stop her. That is exactly what Adam did. But we mustn’t judge others, right? I think that’s usually a lot of bull. I think we use that to make us feel better about not doing something we know we should. And if we speak up, are we really judging the person or the sin? We all talk about loving the sinner but hating the sin, but not speaking up doesn’t say much for hating the sin. And letting someone we care for go on sinning and not trying to help them isn’t showing much love for the sinner either.
Do we call on God’s help when we need it? Do we understand that he is there, waiting to help when we ask? I think most of us commit the sin of pride and self-reliance rather than turning to God for the strength to resist sin. We may have all become sinners because of Adam’s original sin, but we sure don’t seem to be doing much to stop repeating that same sin over and over. Can we overcome Satan and his temptation? Of course we can, God gave us the means and the ability to reject the enemy and all he does. He’s there, waiting for the call, ready to respond at a moment’s notice. All we need do is ask.