“Did God say, “You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?'” A subtle, subversive question. A devilish question. What did God say? You may eat the fruit of all trees of the garden except one. Eat of that one and you will die. That’s what God said, and the serpent wants to get between Eve and the Word.
This is where temptation begins, a crack of daylight between the creature and the Creator, between you and the Word. Did God really say…honor your father and mother, do not kill, commit adultery, steal, lie, covet? Did He really say that? Maybe you misheard.
“We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, but God did say You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden….” Eve answers correctly. But then she adds something more. She doesn’t fully trust the Word: she needs to add a little bit of her own.”Neither shall you touch it.” Eve is the first pietist. More religious than God Himself – she tries to outdo God.
God has said nothing about touching. Adam and Eve are free to touch it all they want, roll around in its leaves, have a food fight with its fruit if they want. They’re just not supposed to eat it. From that, they are not free, and in not eating, they are free to eat everything else. Freedom always involves the option to say both yes or no, or it is not genuine freedom.
“You will not die.” A lie from the father of lies! The devil is a liar to the core. With the lie, the hook is set. The serpent opens a crack in the door with a devilish temptation. “You can be like God. You can be gods, too. Wouldn’t that be great? Why worship God when you can worship yourself?”
Eve is tempted. She plucks the forbidden fruit and studies it closely, not in light of God’s Word but in the darkness of the Lie. She rationalizes. She sniffs. Mmmmmm. It is good for food. How could something be wrong that tastes so right? It is beautiful. Surely a dangerous and deadly thing would be ugly, right? And stink. But this is beautiful and delicious. And it will make you wise. Wouldn’t God want you to be wise? Doesn’t the end somehow justify the means?
She eats, and Adam eats without so much as a recorded syllable of protest, and the rebellion begins. It is a Fall so great it plunges the whole creation into disorder and decay. A Fall so great that humanity cannot save itself.
“Lead us not into temptation,” we pray. God doesn’t tempt us. But the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh do. The devil would tempt us to trust the Lie. The world would tempt us to despair that God is good and great or that He even exists. Our sinful selves, the old Adam in us, would tempt us to great shame and wickedness. Every time, it’s the same old pattern: Did God say? You won’t die. You can be like God. Go ahead, bite down on the Lie.
Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, yet in such a way that He did not sin. With us, temptation and sin are nearly the same things. No sooner are we tempted, than we have already sinned in our desires. But not Jesus. He was tempted to destroy stones to make bread to feed His hunger. He was tempted to test God’s Word by throwing Himself off the top of the temple. He was tempted by all the world’s riches and power and glory in exchange for a brief secret moment of false worship. Yet Jesus did not sin, even in thought or desire.
Don’t be fooled. You will be tempted. You have the devil, the world, and your own sinful Adamic flesh with you all the time. You will be tempted in thought, in word, in action. You will be tempted by power, by pleasure, by unbelief. But here’s the good news: Jesus resisted the temptation for you and in Him, there is no condemnation. You are not alone; everyone is tempted in some way. God is faithful; He does not abandon you in your weakness. He won’t let you be tempted beyond your strength. He will always provide a way through every time of temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Remember who you are: a baptized child of God. Remember your Baptism, hearing the words of absolution. Eat and drink Jesus’ body and blood, given and shed for you. Where the forbidden tree brought sin and death, Jesus’ tree of the cross brings forgiveness and life. On the day you eat of it, you will surely live.
Our Father in heaven…lead us not into temptation.
Rev. William Cwirla
This article is featured in the Fall Issue of Higher Things Magazine. For more great articles like this one, subscribe now. http://higherthings.org/magazine