Genesis 2:17. but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.
A very common question that people ask about this verse is, “If God knew Adam and Eve were just going to sin, why did he create the tree of knowledge in the first place?” At best God is foolish. At worst God is evil for setting them up for failure.
Or maybe there’s a third option. Could it be that creating the tree of knowledge, and then forbidding it, is actually an act of love?
For there to be life beyond physical life, the life of the soul, there must be two things: love and liberty (or freedom). God is love (1 John 4:8). God is liberty (1 Cor. 3:17). If God made us to image him, wouldn’t it make sense that he would allow man to freely choose to love him? In order to love us he had to make us truly free. In order for us to truly love him, we would have to freely choose him.
It’s easy to just think of Genesis 2:17 as only a restriction by God. And yes, it is. But, coupled with the tree of life, it’s also an invitation. An invitation to truly live from love and freedom. How? Because Adam and Eve would have to choose to sacrifice something, the knowledge of good and evil, power, control, self-determination, in order to humbly receive the life of God by grace through faith. All true love requires this kind of sacrifice.
No choice, no sacrifice.
No sacrifice, no love.
No love, no life.
“You have chosen wisely.”
What exactly did the tree of knowledge offer? It offered a moral system. A religion. Judgment based on how good or bad you are. This is why most people believe that when you die God will judge your good against your bad. So keep the ten commandments. Follow the eight-fold path. Practice the five pillars. Build up good karma. Be a good Christian. Then die and hope your good was good enough.
Ironically we all love this system. All of us default to it. Why? Because it offers us control. “If I do good, I get good. If I do bad, I get bad.” Simple.
But this way of life is death. For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. Or literally – “dying you will die.”
A life where you get to be your own moral compass, your own decider of truth, your own god, is actually dying a slow death as you move farther and farther away from God’s life of grace. It’s a dying that comes from having to constantly figure your own life out, have all the answers, always get it right. It’s a dying from never knowing if your good was good enough or if your bad can ever be overcome. It’s slowly dying as you wonder, “Why if I’m so good is my life so hard?” It’s a dying from the despair or pride that comes when you alone are your only source of righteousness.
Living or dying. This is our same choice today. Christ came to show us what living truly is. Not self-determination, but self-sacrifice. Not independence, but dependence upon God’s grace. Not earning a good judgment by our good deeds, but receiving the judgment of Christ’s cross and the justification of his resurrected life. Not by trying to live as Jesus (another form of self-righteousness), but by receiving the love of Jesus. Then allowing Jesus to live out his love as you. That’s “to live is Christ.”
In what ways are you trying to control your life with a system of good and evil?
You in Christ
How would your life be different today if you really believed that your goodness was from Christ and not your own good or evil?
Christ in you
How can Christ live out his perfect knowledge of good and evil through you? What good can he do through you? What evil can he overcome through you (big or small)?