So when the woman saw
that the tree was good for food,
& that it was a delight to the eyes,
& that the tree was to be desired
to make one wise,
she took of its fruit and ate…
~ Genesis 3:6 ~
I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever abides in me
and I in him,
he it is that bears much fruit.
Apart from me
you can do nothing.
~ John 15:5 ~
Genesis 3 provides a lens into what humankind does when they are tempted away from what’s central. Following the creation account, it’s the very first story presented to us in scripture. It’s the very first look into human processing when we are not engaged with our Maker, and the very first look at our adversary.
Eve was not with the Lord at the time the serpent came to her, at least not in the way scripture describes their typical interaction. One wonders if that timing was not deliberate on the serpents part. Did God know the serpent had come to her? Was He aware of the content of that conversation? Didn’t He understand Eve’s vulnerability? Why didn’t He come to her aid when He saw her move toward peril? Why didn’t He protect her from herself, let alone her enemy? All we know for certain is that Omniscient, Omnipresent God chose not to intervene. I wonder, would God have entered that moment if He was invited to do so? But He wasn’t.
There was no precedent in humanity’s short existence for how a person might respond to any challenge of the status quo. Free will was going to get a chance to stretch its legs. It had yet to be tested. Up until this moment, there was only harmony, perfection, untainted fellowship and freedom. All was as it was meant to be. There will never be another event in human history where we see the potential within us to handle temptation within a context of perfection. So often we naively think that we are susceptible because of our brokenness and pain. At a minimum, Genesis 3 blows up that argument once and for all. Eve had never experienced soul pain. She was physically, intellectually and emotionally whole.
So the story begins, and Eve dialogues with her yet unrecognized adversary. She then uses her reasoning to assess and respond to this utterly unfamiliar scenario. I believe she makes a sincere effort to choose well. The text clearly reveals she brings all her finite faculties to bear. However, we know she did not utilize her most precious resource. It might simply have been that God was not present in a familiar way. It may not have occurred to her that God would have had something to contribute to her decision-making process. Remember, this situation had no precedent. There was no such thing as relational sickness or disharmony of any kind. In that moment, and ONLY that moment, creation and creature alike provided a perfectly untainted test-lab.
Eve begins processing. As far as we are told, her partner Adam is not interjecting, nor is the serpent, who remains silent once he has presented his temptation. She simply looks at the tree in question (the ONLY no in a sea of yeses, as one pastor puts it) and applies her virgin skills: The tree was….
good for food (a physical attraction)
a delight to the eyes (an emotional attraction)
desired to make one wise (an intellectual attraction)
There appears to be no particular struggle or inner-wrestling within Eve. She makes her assessment and then takes and eats. Sin enters the created order and enters the human condition.
Deep breath and a long sigh. Do you have any trouble recognizing yourself in Eve? I don’t. C.S. Lewis calls us “daughters of Eve.” The association runs deeper within me than the obvious gender connection.
Two factors make the point for me. First, Eve responded independently in the moment of her temptation and it cost her immeasurably. The second point, which I believe came into play because of her independent posture, is that she was fairly easily and fatally distracted. Her attention was effortlessly drawn away from the bounty God had provided, to the one thing she was forbidden. That combination, autonomy, and the vulnerability attached to its shirt-tail was fatal.
Autonomy, disconnectedness, willfulness, independence, detachment…. whatever descriptive word resonates, if I am in any posture other than that of full dependence, I become highly vulnerable. I, like Eve, will defer to my flesh, to what seems right to me, and choose accordingly. I cannot claim “undue hardship.” I have to concede this tendency lives within me regardless of past or present circumstances.
The Apostle Paul states it like this: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Scripture is clear, this is an inner weakness I will live with for the rest of my earthly days. The other side of this coin is simple, familiar, and profoundly relevant: God’s power is made perfect in my weakness. However, that power does not manifest when I have pulled away from Him. My “old self” manifests. We come full circle then, back to the lowest shelf, where Jesus says with vivid clarity…
“…apart from me
you can do nothing.”