From inception Watershed has sought to put justice at the forefront of our mission. Whether embedded into the themes of pop culture artifacts or real life events in our city, nation, and world, justice has become a hot topic. Over the course of the next few weeks Pastor of Justice Cedric Lundy is going to conduct a blog series aimed at unpacking our understanding of justice and why it’s fundamental to our community.
So often when discussing Genesis 3 it is easy to get sidetracked asking questions about the tree and the fruit, why God put it there, and why the punishment for eating from the wrong tree so severe. A very literal reading of Genesis 3 raises all kinds of questions that are difficult to answer. On the other hand, reading Genesis 3 as a story which explains the realities of the way things are may supply us with more epiphanies of understanding about what happened, is happening, and will continue to happen if we repeat their course of action when faced with similar dilemmas.
Eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil may actually have little to do with good and evil as we’ve come to understand. It may have nothing to do with mankind being exposed to something outside of their person and a battle between good and evil, the light and the dark. Is fruit really about good versus evil? Clearly in the first two chapters God didn’t set up a world of opposing planes of positive and negative. This is best illustrated by the fact that God makes the sun to mark the day and the moon to mark the night. Nowhere in the creation narrative is there an inference that the night is intrinsically bad or the day better than the night. The day and the night are two halves of a whole, a day, and together they are good.
Maybe a better name for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would be "the tree of what’s enough”.
In the story of the fall Adam and Eve aren’t tempted to eat from that which they’ve been instructed until they are deceived into thinking that the tree is offering more. They are led to believe by eating the fruit that they can be more. Prior to being deceived into thinking they were missing out and that there was more, they were happy with what they had. They were satisfied with who they are, their relationship with God, one another and with the rest of creation. They didn’t feel as though they were missing out on something by not eating from that tree because, at the end of the day, it’s just one tree amongst a multitude of trees.
It is the first time in their lives that they are faced with the question of whether or not they had enough. It is the first time in their lives they consider that they aren’t enough. They took the bait, and, as a result, good and evil entered the world in the constant conundrum of more or less. At the heart of ‘what’s enough’ is the moral dilemma of more or less.
Shalom is not simply the absence of evil because everything is good and everything is good because God didn’t create anything intrinsically evil. Shalom is the idea that there is harmony between the creator and his creation and the creation with itself because the creator has given and supplied all of his creation with enough. The Fall, or disordering of Shalom, began as soon as Adam and Eve acted on the belief that they were no longer enough and desired more by taking and eating. In that moment they had to choose between taking more, believing they weren’t enough, or choosing less believing they were enough. The irony being that they opted for more and in return they had less. Immediately upon eating the fruit they felt like less, ashamed of their nakedness. Feeling like less led them to take more. The clothes served the purpose of covering what they were now ashamed of, their bodies. Not that making clothes is an inherently bad thing, however how much more has our feeling like less cost creation?
It’s worth noting there is no indication of them being ashamed of what they did. They were ashamed of what they were. Who they were was no longer enough. They felt less about themselves and in response they took something because their shame required more. Ultimately the common thread of the curses God pronounces to Adam and Eve is a lack of trust that has resulted from them believing they didn’t have enough and taking more. Mankind doesn’t trust God, mankind doesn’t trust one another, and the rest of creation doesn’t trust mankind. There’s enmity between the man and the woman, the plants grow thorns, and with great pain and anguish we multiply and provide for ourselves.
Unfortunately the struggle with what’s enough and for more or less continued immediately. In the following narratives of scripture Cain kills Abel, angry that it seems what he offers to the divine is not enough (ironically, in an agricultural civilization, God’s favor was perceived through the lens of receiving more or less of what ever was offered). In the days of Noah prior to the flood men are described as taking “as their wives any they chose.” The tower of babel just builds up on top of itself instead of expanding outward away from it self to include the world beyond its walls.
How many injustices can we observe in our world today and in the annals of history that were sparked by the question, “what is enough?” How much blood has been spilled and stomachs stayed hollow due to the endless cycle of some having more, some having less, but neither one having enough? Some have more but feel like they can never have enough and so they take more. Others have less. They literally don’t have enough food, clothing, education, resources, etc. Countless wars have been started simply because someone wanted more, and countless revolutions were sparked because others were tired of less.
How many injustices can we observe in our world persist because of the cycle of shame and blame? We feel ashamed of who we are and we blame or scapegoat others for the things we feel ashamed of instead of dealing with the real problem which is resolving the question of what is enough.
So whether or not we read Genesis 3 as an actual historical event or a metaphor, I’m sure we can all agree that it happened and is happening. We consider what’s enough, and we more or less decide it’s not.