“He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You can’t eat from any tree in the garden”?’” (CSB – Read the chapter)
When was the last time you were tempted to do something you shouldn’t have wanted to do? Unless you happen to be reading this just after waking up, I suspect it wasn’t all that long ago. Temptation is everywhere. “Being tempted” is part of our cultural lingo. We talk about being tempted to do this or that freely and easily. Not with things we really think are bad, mind you, but the language is common all the same. It’s like temptation is just a joke. If it is, though, it isn’t a good joke.
Temptation becomes a joke when sin becomes a farce. And in our culture right now, sin is a farce. We don’t think there really is such a thing as sin. This is because increasingly, as a culture, we don’t think there is anyone who is really going to be offended by it, namely, God.
Well, that’s not entirely true. The progressive left in our culture, much to the contrary of its denials, is more and more becoming a religious movement with priests and sacred texts whose gods are total sexual autonomy and fully autonomous human identity (and sometimes the environment) and sin is taking any kind of a position—public or private—that stands at odds with their full embrace. The leaders of this movement are radical about holding sinners accountable, but that’s a conversation for another time.
The real truth of that matter, though, is that sin is real. Sin is real and temptation is too. Here in Genesis 3, we get a glimpse at the very first temptation. Even from this first statement by the serpent (which we talked about on Monday morning) we can learn something very important about temptation. That is this: Temptation is always rooted in a lie.
Look at what the serpent says again: Did God really say, “You can’t eat from any tree in the garden?” Well, had God said that? Not even close. The serpent took what God had actually said and turned it on it’s head. It was true that God had said something. It was true that God had said something about a tree. It was even true that God had said something about not eating from a tree. But everything else about what the serpent said was a lie. God had in fact said almost the exact opposite of what the serpent implies by its question.
The inversion of what God said, though, is not the real lie here. In order to understand that, we need to think a bit deeper about the serpent’s question. Why ask this in this way? What was it trying to do? Well, how do you feel about the idea that God made all these trees and wouldn’t let Adam and Eve eat from any of them? True or not, how does that idea make you feel?
I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel jilted. It makes me feel shorted. It makes me feel like God is unfairly and even unjustly keeping something from me. That was exactly the point. The serpent was aiming at growing in them that same feeling of dissatisfaction and discontentment that is growing in you. He wanted them to think that rather than giving them everything, God was keeping something from them.
That is the lie.
That’s the lie that rests at the heart of all temptation. It’s that God is trying to keep something from us that we should have and it’s up to us to get it. We must take it for ourselves whatever God has said about it. He’s not so good as He seems or we’ve been told if He would keep this thing from us. It is good and He is not.
Have you ever thought that? Perhaps not out loud, but any time you’ve wrestled and debated with temptation, that was exactly the lie with which you were doing battle. In telling you not to do this thing did God have your best interests at heart in a desire to see you freed from anything that would keep you from being fully formed in His image, or was He keeping something from you unjustly that you should be able to enjoy freely? The former is the truth. The latter is the lie. But in the moment we really do want to do whatever it is God has told us not to do, the lie is awfully convenient.
Any time we wrestle with temptation, we are rehashing this first temptation. We are wrestling with the same lie. All temptation is rooted in a lie. This lie. And now you know. Don’t buy the lie. Stand in the truth. Stand in the way of the second Adam, not the first; the second Adam who proclaimed and died for the truth so that you can be set free by it. Be free in the truth.