Good and Evil | Genesis 2:5-9
When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:5-9 | ESV
The text is a tease. Totally. “Good, good, good, good, good, good, VERY GOOD…oh yeah, and there was this other tree smack dab in the midst of the garden: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” What!? Evil!? Where did that come from? If this were a story being told by Peter Jackson, we would now have a flashback lasting at least fifteen minutes that would provide an epic interlude and explanation back through the mists of time to the dawn of the ages, a tale of rebellion and tragic loss that introduces all the main characters and events and that would lead us right up this very moment in the Shire-like garden of Eden. Typically, that’s exactly what we do is we insert a story woven from much later prophetic threads that serve to explain everything. But Genesis 2 resists that temptation. Evil is just there. In the garden. Why the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God? Why that tree? Wouldn’t we all have been so much better off without it? One rabbinic tradition speculated that God tried creating a world without such a tree, but it was a disaster of humanity stuck forever in infantile obedience. We needed the tree, we need the choice to be truly human, to fully step into the divine image. As Scot McKnight surmises: “The biblical view of sovereignty–a robust version if ever there was one–means God has chosen–because he loves those whom he has created and grants them freedom–to limit his sovereignty by giving humans that freedom. My argument is not philosophical; my argument is biblical. I affirm what the Bible says about God’s sovereignty, and biblical sovereignty entails human freedom both to choose God and un-choose God.” Maybe that’s helpful, maybe it’s not. The fact remains that this is a knot that seems to defy all our efforts to fully untangle it. And perhaps untangling it isn’t the point anyway. Perhaps the point is knowing that good and evil resided in that first neighborhood, just as it resides in our neighborhood, our home, our heart. Perhaps the question is, as we are confronted by our own tree, what are we going to do with it?
How do you account for the presence of good and evil in this world? During this past week, how have you experienced the reality of both in your world? How have you responded to each?
God, transport me beyond all philosophical and theological abstractions and debate and give me the grace right here in my garden, my time, my home, my heart, to choose you and to embrace the fruit of life. Through Jesus.
For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.