The First Sin and Its PunishmentGenesis 3:1-10 (NRSV)
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 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 middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
Friends, this week we began the season of fall, a season that brings colored leaves, cornstalks, pumpkins, and apple picking! In apple picking season, we are often tempted by the smells of baking pies, caramel apples, and warm cider donuts. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Well, our scripture is also about apple picking and temptation. Today we heard the story of Adam and Eve, which is a story that brings up many different things for many different people. Some good, some bad, and some in-between. There are lots of themes that can be brought out in the story. We can think about the serpent or the apple or the tree in the middle of the garden, sometimes referred to as the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We can think about what it would be like to live in the Garden of Eden or we can question God’s judgment on our individual acts. But today I want us to put all those things aside and take some time to think about temptation. Whenever I say “temptation,” I always hear in the back of my head, “Bum, bum, bum!!” It just sounds evil, doesn’t it?
In the Bible, we hear several stories about people being tempted. Two of the most well-known are Eve being tempted by the serpent in today’s story, and, if you remember, just as Jesus was preparing to begin his ministry, he went out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Now the two stories show us two very different results. When Eve is tempted by the serpent in today’s story, she falls to the temptation, eating the apple and thus causing the fall of humankind. It always surprises me that such a small act can cause such a big commotion!
But when Jesus is tempted by the devil, even though the devil keeps at him tempting him over and over again, and even though Jesus had not eaten for forty days he keeps a level head and never falls to the temptation. Finally, the devil gets tired and frustrated and leaves, giving Jesus the strength and authority that he needs to begin his ministry.
Friends, the truth is we are constantly tempted each and every day, and it is up to us to make good choices and do what we know in our hearts is right. But does that mean that we always do? Of course not. We are human beings. We make mistakes. We struggle, sometimes making good choices and sometimes falling to temptations. But because we all have different personalities and opinions, we are all tempted by different things. Many of us are tempted by food. That’s why I find it kind of funny sometimes that Eve was tempted by an apple and not a chocolate chip cookie! Many times we are tempted to eat things that we know are not good for our bodies, but we want them because they taste good. Most of the time, temptations sound so good because they promise pleasure or something wonderful that we don’t have. Eve ate the apple, not because it was a simple apple but because the serpent told her that by eating it her eyes would be opened and she would be like God and know everything.
Folks, we all long for things that we don’t have or things that we are told we aren’t supposed to do, don’t we? There is nothing like someone telling us, “You can’t have that,” or, “Don’t do this” to make us want it even more! Though some people are tempted by food, some are tempted by alcohol or drugs because they think it will help to drown out the worries in their lives. Or some are tempted by gambling because they know if they could just win then everything will be better.
I have to say, after having a personal experience with a family member and their addiction, I have found that the more people I talk to, the more people share stories that they too have experienced addiction issues in their family. I am always amazed by the stories that I hear from people who I thought had no such struggles.
The truth is we are all tempted to do things that we know we shouldn’t, and we all usually make the choice to do them at one time or another. And sometimes, for some people, it’s okay. But the problem arises when we do those things and feel like we need to hide them from others. We hide because we feel guilt and shame over our decision. We know that our choice was not the best and that we let temptation win. And we don’t want anyone to know, so we keep it a secret. And that is the same reason why we don’t share the stories of addiction in our families until we hear someone else struggling with a similar issue. But sometimes the best thing that we can do is talk about our issues and get support from those around us.
Often, distancing or pulling away from people that you care about are telltale signs of any kind of addiction because you think you need to hide what you are doing out of a sense of shame or guilt or fear of judgment, just like Adam and Eve did in today’s scripture reading. Scripture says…
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
Friends if you ever feel like the things that you are saying or doing need to be covered up, that is usually a good sign that something is wrong. Privacy is one thing, but secrecy and hiding are another.
So far today, we have looked at temptation as a negative thing–something that pushed us to make bad choices. But what about being tempted by something good? After all, temptation is a desire or an impulse to do something. Have you ever been tempted to help someone when you see that there is a real need? Or have you ever been tempted to try something new? Though temptation is usually thought of as a negative, it can also just be a feeling that we are being urged to do something that we are a little bit nervous about, something that causes us to stop and think before we jump. So, I wonder, what does your faith tempt you to do? To love your neighbor or to help a stranger? To share the good news of the gospel? To share your time, talent, and treasure? Or to take on a new leadership role in the church?
Friends, sometimes living out our faith can be a little scary, and when we go out into the world, we tend to hide our faith. Sometimes we are afraid to talk about our beliefs because others might judge us, and sometimes we are afraid to do what Jesus calls us to do because it contradicts what society tells us is cool. But it’s up to us to stand firm in our faith, listening for God’s still-speaking voice rather than listening to the voices of the serpents all around us.
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your week ahead, think about the things that tempt you and the choices that you make because of those temptations. And if you feel like you need to hide, talk to someone–your spouse or a friend or your minister. Let your faith lead your life, not your fear. And remember it’s apple picking season! So get out there and enjoy yourself! Make healthy choices, eat good food, and if you need help with temptations or addictions, get it! Be open to those around you, and never be afraid to also be open to God’s call in your life. Remember that God does not call the equipped, but God always equips the called. So you just might be surprised where God leads you.
May it be so, thanks be to God. Amen.