I believe have a pretty good awareness of what is right and wrong. I’m sure you do too, but our current culture is one that is leaning away from clearly defined “right and wrong”, into a state of “what it right for me.” We believe that the definer of right and wrong is supremely “Me.” This manifests itself in my life as well, most clearly on the ice hockey rink when a ref has made a mistake and called a penalty on me that I “obviously did not commit.” Although I’ve come a long way from being a hockey player that would yell at the ref for every call he made, I still find myself overwhelmed with irritation at times with penalties called against me. Now, you may say, “Well ref’s just stink, so that is part of the game,” but what if I told you that upon reflection of my previous outbursts towards the refs, I often have to admit to myself that I am actually in the wrong. I’ve either realized that I did deserve the penalty, or that I definitely shouldn’t have reacted the way I did. Either way, I was in the wrong.
I don’t’ share that just to have a space for “confessional,” but because this is the story of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2 tells a story of a garden that God has given to man and woman, placing at the center of the garden, two trees: the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He then tells man . “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” In the next chapter we encounter the infamous “fall” story. (Just as a side note- often we assume because it is the next chapter it happened relatively soon after the previous chapter, but in reality “The fall” could have taken place centuries later.) Chapter three introduces us to the serpent, who slyly implants doubt into the man and woman. This man and woman then eat of the fruit and everything goes downhill from there. Crazy, right? Let’s pause for a second though, because what is happening here goes beyond a talking snake, a tree with deadly fruit, and two humans hanging out with God naked; and it actually is reflected much of my attitude towards the rules, and the keeper of those rules of hockey.
Without getting in-depth with the surrounding cultural context that this story would be read in(*see note at the end), let’s remove ourselves from the specifics of the story and ask the question, “What really is going on here”? Essentially the story of the trees and of the fall is a story about choice; A choice to allow God to define what is good and evil, or a choice to take that responsibility on yourself, and decide that you know better than God. That is what this story is about: choice at being the keeper of what is good and evil. There are two trees: a tree of life and the “other” option, the opposite option. Thought it’s title is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God also clearly states that the result of eating it is death. Simply put, there is a tree of life and a tree of death. God is basically saying,- It is wrong to choose death, because that is not what I created you for. You must choose to let Me define who you are and what is right. You can choose to define these for yourself through knowledge of good and evil. BUT let me remind you: That way will definitely lead to death. So when the serpent tempts man, it is essentially encouraging them to not trust the definer of what is right and wrong. It pushes them to become the definers of what is right and wrong., “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The statement the serpent made is one that says God is not trustworthy, and it encourages the woman to place herself equal to God, with the power to determine what is good and evil.
The results are not good, devastating really, but again let’s pause and sit in the frustration that Adam and Eve blew it for all of us. Here we should evaluate if shouting “unfair,” is proper, or if this interaction is something that causes us to realize how much Adam and Eve we have in us….
Here is the connection- The refs in hockey have been trained and put in a place of authority, to uphold the integrity of the game and make sure that people are following the rules. As a hockey player I have the choice to assume that I know it all and that they have no idea what is going on. Undeniably my heart goes here too often, and when it does, undeniably the game is less enjoyable, and really is ruined. I say that with plenty of experience in this, and yet, with this knowledge, I too often choose, once again, to enter the ice with this mentality: Even though the results consistently show that me thinking I know best draws out the worst in all, I want the control and I decided to be the definer of my hockey game, the keeper of right and wrong.
Of course this is an elementary view of sin, and the example of hockey has some flaws (refs are not by any means perfects, and they do blow calls), but it demonstrates a truth in our lives that is reflected in the story of Adam and Eve: we continue to want to define good and evil dismissing God with an “I got this” attitude. It is only when we confess this, admitting that we need God to define what is right and wrong, and we look to Him for life, that the world begins to move back to Eden, or more accurately, allows a little bit more of God’s kingdom to be established here on earth. *for more information about this look up the Gilgamesh Epic, Canaanite fertility gods, and what snakes represent in the orient during ancient cultures.