God called to the man, “Where are you?” “I heard you walking in the garden,” replied the man. “I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid.”
God said, “Who told you of nakedness?” Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I forbade you to eat?” The man replied, “It was the woman you put beside me; she gave me the fruit and I ate it.” It’s all her fault!
Then God asked the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The snake tempted me, so I ate.” It’s all his fault! [Inclusive Bible with my additions]
We begin our First Lesson from Genesis with a lot of finger pointing. God points a finger at Adam. Adam points his finger at Eve. Eve points her finger at the snake. It’s a story as old as time. It’s always somebody else’s fault!
We know this story all too well. We see it being played out in our lives and in our world. People are often tempted to blame someone else for the evils in their life and in our world. The finger pointing is endless.
Republicans and Democrats point their fingers at each other, saying, if THEY would simply follow US our government would be in much better shape. Conservative and Progressive Christians point their fingers at each other, saying, if THEY would simply believe in God like WE do our world would be in much better shape.
Nations point their fingers at other nations, saying, YOU’RE responsible for the mess WE’RE in. Or YOU’RE the one who is being the aggressor, not US. The homeless and the poor get fingers pointed at them all the time. Why don’t YOU get a job? Why are YOU so lazy? If YOU didn’t want to be homeless, poor, etc. YOU would do something about it. And the finger pointing goes on and on and on. Family members point fingers at each other. So do church members, neighbors, and the like.
Finger pointing is a part of human nature because it is SO EASY to blame someone else as the source of our problems. It’s SO EASY to let ourselves off the hook instead of looking deep within and asking what part we played in setting bad things into motion.
This is the where our First Lesson starts. It’s not a pretty picture. but it’s certainly an accurate one! The challenge it presents to us is an important one. Every time we, as a group or individual, find ourselves pointing our finger at another person or group, we should probably pause, catch our breath, and ponder how we may have contributed to the problem instead of being part of the solution.
Thankfully, the story does not end with finger pointing. In fact, this is only the beginning. God’s initial response to all the finger pointing may seem harsh to those who understand God as gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. But the underlying wisdom in these verses says a great deal about the nature of sin and the consequences of bad choices we make in life.
As the story continues, God says to the snake “Because you have done this, you are cursed; lower than the cattle, lower than the wild beasts. You will crawl on your belly and eat dust every day of your life. I will make you enemies of one another, you and the woman, your offspring and heirs. Her offspring will wound you on the head, and you will wound hers on the heel.” [Inclusive Bible]
Then God says to the woman: “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; You will bear your children in pain. You will desire union with your man, but he will be bent of subjugating you.” [Inclusive Bible]
Finally, God says to the man: “Because you have listened to your woman and have eaten from the tree which I forbade you, the earth will be cursed because of you. With painstaking labor you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will yield thorns and thistles when you try to eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat bread, until you return to the earth, just as you were taken from it. You are dust, and to dust you will return.” [Inclusive Bible]
The prevailing wisdom of this passage is NOT that God is punishing us. The prevailing wisdom of this passage is that sin has consequences. The bad choices we make in life take on a life of their own. God does not need to punish us. We punish ourselves by the poor choices we sometimes make in life.
It always amazes me that people blame God for all kinds of problems. In my work as a chaplain at Mission Hospital I often hear the question asked as to why God is punishing them or a loved one. I listen in prayerful silence as people ponder, for example, why a car crash happened.
The truth of the matter is that the person was heavily intoxicated. They were driving at a high rate of speed. This caused the accident, not God but that is a truth they cannot hear. And it would be disastrous to bring it up! The truth of the matter is that sin has it’s consequences. The bad choices we make set things into motion that cannot be reversed.
It’s like a snowball rolling down a ski slope. It picks up more and more snow and becomes an avalanche by the time it reaches the bottom of the mountain. And so when people ask the “Why did God do this to me?” question.My response is always the same. It has everything to do with the verses that follow our First Lesson.
As the story continues, we read the following: “God made clothes of animal skins for the woman and man to wear.” Then God sent the man and woman forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which the man had been taken. Finally, God placed a cherubim with a flaming sword at the entrance of the garden, ensuring that the man and woman could never return.
If we hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people, I believe it is the truth that in the midst of the bad choices we make in life, God works for good. God made garments for the man and woman. God taught the man how to till the soil. Then God gave them a new home and a new life beyond the garden. These are acts of grace.
In Genesis 2, God had initially said to the man “You may eat as much as you like from any of the trees of the garden—except the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. You must not eat from that tree, for on the day you eat from that tree that is the day you will die.” [Gen 2:16-17]
The man blatantly disobeyed God’s command, and then tried to blame the woman for his bad decision. However, if God was following the rules God should have killed the man which is what God promised to do. But this is NOT the God we read about in Genesis 3. God commutes the man’s original death sentence and acts with surprising grace toward both the man and the woman.
This is the God of our experience! This is the God who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love! We may not be able to return to the way things were. We may not be able to hit the reset button. But God always, always finds a way for us to move forward.
Therefore, when people ask the “Why did God do this to me?” question, my response goes something like this: I tell them, “It is my experience that God works for good in the midst of the bad. God always tries to give birth to new life and new beginnings in the midst of our deaths and dead ends.” Then I try to be God’s peaceful, healing presence in the lives of those who find themselves in the midst of tragedy and sorrow. This, I believe, is the lesson we learn from Genesis 3. It is one of the most important lessons we will ever learn in life.
So where do we go from here? What wisdom do we take with us from the story of Genesis 3? Well, there are several important lessons we learn from it. The first is that any time we find ourselves finger pointing at another person or group of people, we should first turn that finger inward and point toward ourselves. Rarely, is it true that another person or group of people is the sole source of our problems. It’s important that we take the time to examine what role we might have played in helping to set negative things into motion in our lives and in our world.
Furthermore, we need to examine our attitudes and actions to ensure that we are not escalating the problem or causing us to get stuck in an endless loop of finger pointing. This is not an easy thing to do. But it is an important thing to do if we’re ever going to find a way to move forward in life.
The second thing we learn is that sin takes on a life of it’s own. The bad choices we make in life often set things into motion that we cannot reverse. God does not have to punish us for our sins. Our sins have a way of punishing us. Therefore, asking the “Why did God let this happen to me?” question is counterproductive. We’re pointing our finger at God when, again, we ought to be pointing it toward ourselves.
Finally, the best news of Genesis 3 is that God works for good in the midst of the most hopeless and desperate of situations. God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. God always, always tries to give birth to new life and new beginnings in the midst of our deaths and dead ends. God is not a punisher. God is a forgiver, a savior, a healer, a peacemaker, a bridge-builder, and a dream-giver. It is this God who is worthy of our worship and praise!
So, take the time this week to ponder the wisdom of Genesis 3. There are many things we can learn from this powerful story. AMEN
Copyright ©2018 by David Eck