Adam and Eve knew their place. They were the caretakers of the Garden, given dominion over all of creation. Except they were still under the care and authority of God. They walked with God in the cool of the day, discovering more and more about what it was to be made in the divine image, walking in perfect communion with their Creator. They were agents of God’s grace in the world, in charge of all that God had spoken into existence. They fulfilled every purpose for which they were created.
Until one day, when the serpent pointed out how lovely that fruit looked, how tempting it was. The serpent wasn’t wrong, the fruit was beautiful and fragrant and juicy. And then the serpent suggested that God hadn’t been honest with the humans. He planted seeds of doubt, as if God was afraid they might become too wise, too mighty. Maybe God was trying to keep them away from the fruit because it was the way for them to be like God. The serpent claimed to know the mind of God, and put words in God’s mouth.
It wasn’t simply disobedience, not just believing the lie of the serpent that condemned Adam and Eve to mortality. The temptation wasn’t simply to recognize good and evil. They were being given the opportunity to determine what was good and evil. They took on the privilege and responsibility of God and decided for themselves what was right and what was wrong. They usurped God’s authority for themselves, tried to take the place of God. They chose to take the knowledge of good and evil into their own hands, but they weren’t equipped to bear the weight of the authority of God.
Humans would continue to try and play God. Cain thought God was being unjust and so took justice and vengeance into his own hands. Abram and Sarai would get tired of waiting for God to fulfill God’s promise and take it upon themselves to make their family a great nation. Rebecca made sure her favorite son received the blessing of inheritance. Laban orchestrated Jacob’s marriages, and Jacob genetically engineered Laban’s livestock. Aaron made new gods because the One they had wasn’t moving quickly enough. And on and on.
And when we decide for ourselves who is in and who is out of the Kingdom, we bear the guilt of our earliest ancestors. When we excuse our own sin and condemn others’, we are deciding for ourselves what is good and what is evil. When we take God’s promises into our own hands and claim for ourselves rights and privileges that don’t belong to us, we take the place of God. We show that we don’t trust God to be God. We think we need to help, that we know better. We think we can do God’s job.
Father, forgive us. We didn’t know what we were doing, there in the garden. We don’t know what we’re doing now. We recognize that you are God and we are not. We confess that only you have the authority to define sin and righteousness, and that our role is to be concerned about what that means for us, not for others. Have mercy on us, and forgive us. Create in us a humble spirit that trusts You to be God.