Don’t Touch That!
Ever notice how some statements stick with you the rest of your life? When I was a kid, maybe four or five, I remember a Sunday school teacher telling the story of Adam and Eve saying “She shouldn’t have even been in that part of the garden!” While I haven’t always consciously remembered the statement, I have continued to view the original sin from that perspective. Eve should have stayed as far away as possible. It’s amazing how one simple exclamation that the teacher probably hadn’t even completely thought through changed my outlook on the foundational story of man’s condition. The butterfly flapped its wings in my mind.
About a year ago, I was teaching this story and noticed a small discrepancy. Here’s what God told Adam:
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” -Genesis 2:16-17 (ESV)
Here’s what Eve said God commanded:
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” –Genesis 3:2-3 (ESV)
It appears that she genuinely believed that “don’t touch” was part of God’s original commandment. I’m not sure how she came to that conclusion but I imagine that she and Adam set up some boundaries to keep themselves from being tempted. I have no clue what they decided, but if it were me I would have come up with some safeguards like these:
- Never go to the center of the garden alone.
- Never go to the center of the garden hungry.
- Do not touch the tree.
- If a reptile talks to you, run like the devil…better yet, faster than the devil because he’s probably right behind you.
All of those would have been great ideas and we know that Adam and Eve had at least one safeguard in place–don’t touch. The problem is that Eve equated her personal standard, set to keep her as far from sin as possible, with a direct command from God. She even included a specific punishment when she spoke this rule. This elevated opinion of her personal guidelines probably made it easier for her to sin because the Bible specifically states that she took (broke her own rule with no negative consequence) then ate (broke God’s rule). I imagine that her thought process as she grabbed the fruit went something like this:
Uh-oh, I just messed up, I touched the fruit. Wait a second! God said I would die if I touched it, but I didn’t notice a change. Maybe the serpent was right and God is holding back on us. After all, I broke one rule and nothing happened…
I can’t help but think that Eve’s failure to distinguish between her personal boundaries and the law that God had set forth played a major role in her decision to disobey. I wonder how many times Christians confuse the two. I wonder how many of us have no clue where our church’s/school’s/pastor’s standards end and God’s law begins. I wonder how many have dived headfirst into sin because they cautiously broke a man-made safeguard only to realize the consequences didn’t match what they had believed them to be.
How Eve came to recognize her own personal standards as equal with God’s becomes a little clearer when you realize that Eve never personally heard God give the command. God told Adam about the forbidden tree before Eve was even created—she was receiving second-hand information. As a teacher, I must realize that my opinions could easily become intertwined with God’s law, leaving the learner in a predicament similar to Eve’s.
And I, better than anyone, know that some seemingly insignificant statement could stick in his mind and shape his view of a particular topic for the rest of his life.
If you have answers to these questions, I’d love to read them in the comments:
- Does a particular statement you heard as a child stick out in your mind?
- What man-made safeguards have you seen presented as equal to God’s Word?
- Which is more dangerous- elevating personal standards or not having them?