“I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” Isaiah 48:17
If God Is So Good, What’s Up With All The Bad Stuff In This World? (Part 3 of 6)
Last time we introduced what I describe as the “bad tree” God put in the middle of the garden. He call it the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” We (as fellow humans) ate from it in hopes that we would know as much as God knows. You know how that turned out…
The serpent got Eve and her not-so-bright husband to lust after a certain kind of knowledge that didn’t belong to them and wasn’t supposed to, which begs the question: How much do we really need to know to live here in God’s world? Put another way: What does God know that we don’t need to know in order to live fully as his sons and daughters?
Besides providing them the power of choice, why did God put this particular choice in the middle of the garden where they couldn’t help but walk past it all the time? Why not another fruit tree that entails a different sort of risk to the eaters? Knowledge is usually a good thing. So, why wouldn’t it be good in this case?
I suggest that this specific decision had to do with whether they (we) would demand to be in possession of the sort of knowledge that legitimately belongs only in the hands of God. The test involved whether or not they would honor his “otherness” as the sole proprietor of this particular brand of knowledge. Would they trust him as the one and only one who could wield it for their best interest? Would they rely on his discretion in determining what is good and what is not or would they insist on being arbiters of it themselves?
They went with Plan B and their progeny has been trying to act like God ever since! Now that we know a few things about good and evil we tend to think we know better than our Maker about what is best for us. Turns out we don’t really know that much.
I think planting the verboten tree in the garden was an act of love on God’s part. It was his way of saying, “Trust me. Be content with being my creations. Don’t try to be me. Resist the temptation of attempting to do what I alone can do and you’ll be happy.”
He knew that to live most fully as humans we have to respect his distinctiveness, trust his goodness, and rely on his wisdom to show us what is best. It was his intention all along to share with us a limited yet wonderful domain of responsibility.
No mystery then that the sly snake would twist the narrative to make it look as if God, by outlawing that fruit, were less than loving. “Go ahead and partake. He’s afraid of competition. He doesn’t want you to know what he knows, because then you’ll have no real need for him!”
They believed his lie and ever since we’ve relied on our own wits to distinguish right from wrong rather than trusting God to “lead us in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” He really does have our best interests in mind, but since we ate the forbidden fruit we have a hard time leaning into his trustworthiness.
He is the best, knows the best, wants the best for us, and directs us in such a way as to get the best from us:
“I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” (Isaiah 48:17)
Being “like God,” as the lying snake promised is quite an appealing prospect to us in at least in one sense, the sense in which we can serve as our own authority on our ethics, not to mention the ethics of others. This gets us into trouble every time. Believe me, I know. Of course there’s that other way to lean into his likeness, i.e., emulate his character. Imitating the personality of Jesus is a virtue, whereas insinuating ourselves into the role of judging everyone else’s performance is a vice! There’s only one throne and it only has room for One!
There’s only one “wise God” (Romans 16:27) and it’s not us! When we try to assume what only belongs to him, we lose what belongs to us.
Eating from the toxic tree has affected all of our relationships––with God, ourselves, and with others.
Though only God can love and judge at the same time, we assume the role of judge and jury, and get more practice accusing than loving. Like Job’s friends we indict one another or like Job, we indict God.
God is the only one with enough information to judge, so he warns us to get out of his way and leave some “room or his wrath,” because “vengeance belongs only to him” (Romans 12:19)!
So there are limits to what we need to know. The question remains: How much do we actually know? That’s the theme for our next post.
Here are the links to each of the posts in this series: