In one of the first stories in the Bible, a talking snake appears to the first man and woman and encourages them to eat fruit.
I mean, they had plenty of fruit to eat. Just about every tree around them produced fruit that they were free to eat, so it’s not like they needed encouragement to eat it. But there was one tree that they weren’t supposed to eat from – the tree in the middle of the garden. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. That’s the one the snake wanted them to eat from.
But the woman knows the rules. She knows they can’t eat from that tree, and she tells the snake, “God said if we eat it, or even touch it, we’ll die.”
But the snake offers a rebuttal – “You won’t surely die. To the contrary, your eyes will be opened. You will know the things God knows. You will see the things God sees. You will become like God.”
That was good enough for the woman. Why should she settle for simply being a resident in the Garden, when she could become like the God who put them there? She eats the fruit. She gives it to the man (who was standing right there with her) and he eats the fruit too.
And it turns out the serpent was right. When they ate the fruit, they became like God. Their eyes were opened and they recognized truth they’d never recognized before. Like the fact that they were naked. So they hid themselves. Then they were dismissed from the Garden.
By becoming like God, they separated themselves from God.
They got exactly the power they wanted, and all the consequences that came with it.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus spends some time in the wilderness before he begins his ministry. Prophets often spent time in the wilderness before beginning their ministry, and Jesus was no exception. At the end of that time, Satan shows up to tempt Jesus. At one point, he offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, if Jesus will only bow down and worship him.
It’s really not a bad deal. Just bow down and gain power over everything. No more of this fasting in the wilderness. No more stigma attached with being the bastard son of a carpenter. Just bow down and worship, and all the power in the world would belong to Jesus.
Sure, it’s a compromise. But it’s worth it right? Power and influence in exchange for a couple of moments of worship?
Jesus doesn’t think it is. He rejects the offer. Because there’s already a God in control of all the kingdoms on earth. The earth didn’t need another God. It needed a servant.
Paul reminds us in Romans and 1 Corinthians that it is through Adam that death entered the world, but through Jesus that we have life.
The man and woman in Genesis chose power and brought death. The man in Matthew chose surrender and brought life.
So choose surrender and submission. Choose to trust that God will provide, even if you don’t live in a world that caters to your beliefs. Choose to believe that the God who cares for the sparrow will care so much more for you. No one ever sinned by trusting in God too fully.
You weren’t designed for power. Don’t seek it. Don’t follow those who promise it. When we make decisions based on the power and influence it will bring us, we participate in the Original Sin of the Garden. We become active participants in our own death, while Christ is begging us to join him in his life.
What good is it to gain the whole world, if you forfeit your soul in the process?