Summary: Shows how a mixed-up view of good and evil has been the problem of man from the Garden and how faith and trust in God and His Word is the solution to overcoming this problem.
Calling Evil Good
“In a large city some very creative crooks broke in to a department store. They entered the store unnoticed and stayed long enough to accomplish their mission. You may wonder what they stole, but that’s just the catch. They didn’t take anything. Instead, these thieves switched the price tags. The tag on a $395.00 camera was removed and placed on a box of stationery. The $5.95 sticker off a paperback book was attached to an outboard motor. Everything was shuffled. When the store opened the next morning, you would have expected total chaos. Surprisingly though, the store operated normally at first. Some customers literally got some steals while others felt the merchandise was overpriced. Incredibly, four hours slipped by before the hoax was discovered.”
This evening I want to look at a story that I think is familiar to all of us. It takes us way back to the beginning. And from this we’ll see that the big issues we face today are not new, but they have been around since the beginning of time. And, indeed, they have been plaguing humanity from the beginning of time.
In God’s creation of the world, we see the statements in Genesis 1 that God saw that it was “good.” Hebrew (tov) (Gen. 1:4,10,12,18,21,25). Then in verse 31, he says that it was “very good” or “excellent.” Hebrew (tov m’oth). Here God is making a statement about creation. He is saying that his creation is good. Now, good we know describes an ethical or a moral quality. It describes value. It also describes the lack or opposite of evil. While the fact that God called creation good is of itself significant, I want to draw attention not the goodness itself, but to the fact that it was God who was making this judgment. It was God who decided that the creation was good.
Then in Genesis 2:16,17, it says, 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." Hebrew (tov)
God introduced the first rule to mankind. And here we may say many things, but again this is not my focus. Just notice, based on the fact that they are going to die if they eat from this tree, that this tree is not good for them. Whatever we can say about this tree, it is not good for food.
Now we go to chapter three, the moment of crisis. The serpent came to tempt Eve into eating the fruit, and then giving some to Adam. There are a lot of elements we could look at here, but I only want to look at Eve’s statement for now. She had the command of God not to eat the fruit. She knew because she told the serpent about it. She had the Word from God telling her that this fruit was not good for her, because it would cause death.
But in Genesis 3:6, we see Eve’s response to the serpent’s temptation, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for wisdom, she took some and she ate it.” Hebrew (tov).
Up until this point, only God had made judgments about whether something was good or not good. God say that creation was good or very good. In 2:18, it was God who said that it was not good for man to be alone. And in Gen 2:16,17, when giving the command about the tree, God calls it the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Again, the word used here is the simple word for good and the simple word for evil. The same word tov/good that has been used throughout the story, is used here.
Can this not be a clue as to what the danger of this tree is. Up until this point, God made the assessment of what was good and what was not good. Mankind did not have any need to know good and evil, because this sort of judgment is not his place. Indeed, sometimes I’ve struggled with trying to understand what is so bad about knowing the difference between good and evil. How can we avoid evil if we don’t know what it is? How can we do good if we don’t know what it is? Surely, it is not that God wants us to be ignorant. But what this tree did, was cause mankind to forget God’s assessment of what is good and what is evil, and try to make his own assessment. It takes mankind from hearing the voice of God and obeying it, to looking around and making a determination for himself.