The Lord God put the man in the garden of Eden to care for it and work it. The Lord God commanded him, “You may eat the fruit from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat the fruit from the tree which gives the knowledge of good and evil. If you ever eat fruit from that tree, you will die!”
At first glance, this quote taken from the opening pages of the Bible seems to be way too simple to have any grounding in reality. It paints a picture of a God who forces man to become a gardener, and then tells him that if he enjoys all the fruits of his labor – he will die! It seems to suggest that God is a tyrant, playing games with humanity for His own amusement.
Before we start to consider the reliability (or not) of Genesis or the rest of the Bible, allow me to tell you a story. It’s a simple illustration that has been used many times before, but I challenge anyone to deny the truth that it contains…
A man had a dream. He dreamed of having a family, and providing them with the very best home and surroundings he could design and build. He didn’t NEED a family, but he was lonely and wanted the joy that can come from close, intimate relationships with other humans. So he worked very hard for a long time, sacrificing his own immediate comfort and pleasure for a future that he knew would be incredible. Finally, everything was ready! The house was gorgeous, and it was located in the most fertile land he could afford. Everything about the place oozed comfort and peace, and he couldn’t wait to fill it with the warmth and laughter of a family. But there was one more thing he needed to do, because winter was coming and it was going to get very cold. So the man prepared the most incredible fire place anyone has ever seen! He carefully gathered enough wood to keep it burning until Spring. This fire was going to be absolutely essential for the health and welfare of his family, and the man was looking forward to spending the long dark evenings ahead sitting with his family in the light and heat of the fire.
And his dream came true! He found himself a wife, and a year later they had a beautiful baby boy. Joy oh joy! As the boy grew into a child, the man realized that his son was totally fascinated by the dancing flames of the fire that kept them warm during the winter. The man knew that the fire could be incredibly dangerous, but he also knew that he could not put the fire out. His family would freeze! So the man and his wife lovingly but firmly explained to their boy that he must not go too near the fire, because it would burn and possibly even kill him. Everything else in their home had been made perfectly safe, and the boy knew that he had the freedom to go anywhere and do anything he wanted. He was only forbidden from getting too close to the fire….
Call it what you want. It is the truth. A loving father does all he can to provide for his children, and in the process of doing that there are going to be certain things that a child should not go near. The fact is clear – it is impossible to protect children from every danger without turning a home into a prison.
God gave His children the most incredible life imaginable. Eden was no ordinary garden. Everything was absolutely perfect! However in order for that perfection to be complete, God had to give His children the freedom to choose. So they were told that they could choose anything that the garden had to offer. Earlier in Genesis 2 we are told that:
The Lord God caused every beautiful tree and every tree that was good for food to grow out of the ground. In the middle of the garden, God put the tree that gives life and also the tree that gives the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed through Eden and watered the garden. From there the river branched out to become four rivers. The first river, named Pishon, flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. The gold of that land is excellent. Bdellium and onyx are also found there. The second river, named Gihon, flows around the whole land of Cush. The third river, named Tigris, flows out of Assyria toward the east. The fourth river is the Euphrates.
It was beautiful beyond our wildest dreams! Food everywhere, rivers watering the garden, gold and other wonderful things to be found. I don’t think that being a gardener in Eden was anything other than a privilege and a delight. And God did what a perfect Father has to do. He told His children to obey him, because after all – He had designed and built this garden, and He knew everything about it. He had the absolute right to forbid His children from any or all of it, but He limited the restrictions to just two trees out of the hundreds and thousands and possibly millions of trees that surrounded the man and his wife. Just two trees! And He clearly explained the reasons for the restriction. You will DIE if you eat that! Listen to your Father, son! You will DIE…
The poison that killed Adam and Eve (and has killed every other human being since) was not contained inside a piece of fruit from a tree in a garden. The poison that kills us all is disobedience. We think we know best – better than our spouse, better than our parents, better than our government, teachers, employers….
We think we know better than God. We’ve gone so far down that road that some of us even claim not to believe in God anymore. God gave us the spiritual freedom to make that choice! We are not programmed to believe in Him, and He allows us to turn around, walk away and attempt to forget that He exists. This is what the scene in the Garden of Eden tells us. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and realized that in doing so they had disobeyed their Father. They willingly unplugged themselves from their Life Source, listened to lies, and reaped the consequences. Their SPIRITUAL death was immediate (they could no longer be in God’s presence) and their PHYSICAL death followed in time.
One of the foundational ‘laws’ of the universe is that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. That is true physically, and it is also true spiritually. Yes we are free to choose, but we have never, are not, and will never be free from the consequences of the choices that we make.