The Worst Kind of Fall
We’ve all fallen. Whether a trip or a tumble, we know what it feels like to lose our footing and head downward. Even if we don’t hit the ground, the way we contort as we attempt to stop or brace ourselves can cause strain or harm to our muscles. An aching back, sore neck, or something worse, can be the result. I’m assuming none of this is new or startling information. Yet why don’t we equate it to falling morally, ethically, sexually, or spiritually?
A fall is a fall whether or not it’s in the tangible realm. And there are always ramifications. Some we see, others we don’t, but they are there. We do what we can to keep from going down physically because we know we’ll pay for it in one way or another. Why don’t we apply this when it comes to falling into temptation?
Before we dig into this, I need to clarify something. There are times we choose to do what we shouldn’t. Our eyes are wide open, we know the potential cost, yet we forge ahead anyway. Let’s face it. If we really want to say, do, think, eat, or watch something, we’re going to do it. In our current analogy, I equate that more to jumping off a cliff rather than tripping up or falling down. It’s unbelievably dangerous in the long and short term, so let’s stop before we or those we love are destroyed but it.
Other times, it’s more of a gradual process, a slow fade. James 1:13-15 describes it this way: When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (NIV)
Jesus tells us to pray that we won’t fall into temptation (Matt 6:13). Paul guarantees us an escape from it (I Cor 10:13) although we need to actually take it or it does us no good. But today I want to share a few things we can learn from Genesis 3 and put into practice that will help keep us from falling.
Let me set the scene. The world was perfect – not in a everything-is-going-great kind of way. In an actual, literal, no sin, no decay, no pain or hardships, not even any weeds way. In a complete-harmony-with-your-spouse-and-the-Almighty way. Why would anyone want anything more? Because the one thing Eve couldn’t have was pointed out to her. Lesson one: When we focus on what we don’t have or can’t do, instead of what we have and can, we’re setting ourselves up to fall.
God gave Adam and Eve this amazing garden to live in, where they could enjoy and partake of every growing thing around them except one: the tree of the knowledge of good an evil. And Adam was told why: …for when you eat of it you will surely die." (Gen 2:17 NIV) He couldn’t have completely understood what that meant – since there was no death at that time – but he knew it was bad. Really bad.
In steps the serpent. I can say steps because at that time, he had some sort of legs (Gen 3:14). He asks Eve a question he knows isn’t true to set the groundwork for the deception he’s about to weave: "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" (Gen 3:1 NIV) Can you hear the disdain in his voice? Remember, this is a conversation not just words on a page so let’s read it that way. Eve, seemingly coming to the Almighty’s defense, explains that the only tree they couldn’t eat from is the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 3:3). She unfortunately adds to the prohibition which I believe makes it easier for her to give into temptation. So our next lesson is this: We need to know God’s Word and character. As we’re better acquainted with what He says is right and wrong, the seemingly gray areas begin to disappear. And as we know Him better, moral ambiguity is clarified.
Next, the tempter twists a lie together with truth: "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Gen 3:4-5 NIV) He calls God a liar, since the Almighty said they would die if they ate from the tree. Then he makes it sound like the Lord is holding out and keeping them from something positive that would greatly benefit them. That’s our next bit of truth we can take from our visit to the garden: God always wants what’s best for us and knows what that is, so any prohibition He gives is for our good.
Satan was right when he said eating from that tree would open their eyes to good and evil. The Lord wasn’t hiding that from them since it was what He named the tree. The lie was that such knowledge would be beneficial. You see up to that point, they only knew good. Breaking the one rule exposed and subjected them (and all of creation) to evil. Definitely not a good thing.
Although there are tons of truth and practical lessons in the passage, I’m just going point out one more. It’s found in Genesis 3:6: When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. … (NIV) God told them not to eat from the tree. He also explained why. But like Eve: When we decide to make our own decision whether or not something the Lord has forbidden is really okay for us, we’re almost guaranteed to do, watch, think, say, or taste it.
You can read the results of Eve (and Adam) falling into this temptation in Genesis 3:8-24. In a nutshell, it broke hers, Adam’s, and every human on earth’s relationship with God; brought sin into the world (and along with it, physical death, pain, disease, hardships, decay…); and condemned all of us to spiritual death (meaning an eternity in torment) unless we receive Christ’s gift of salvation.
Our falls are not so all-encompassing or dramatic. But I imagine we know from personal experience the damage they can do to us and others. So let’s learn the lessons in Genesis 3 and stop falling into temptation.
Just something that’s keeping me from tripping along the way.