Have you ever been told what NOT to do? I’m sure you, like myself, have. For example, our parents telling us not to dip into the cookie jar before dinner. As I was writing this devotion, my wife Megan came in from the grocery store. She had a box of cookies and said, “These are for Monday night.” In other words, do NOT eat them before Monday night.
It turns out that being told not to do something is as old as time itself. In the three verses from Genesis 2, we hear the familiar words of God telling the human what NOT to eat. But it is really less about what NOT to do, and more about what God is doing.
First, God gives the Human a purpose. The Human’s vocation is “to farm and take care of the garden.” God created the Earth, but the Human is called to share in the care of that creation. Second, God permits the Human to eat of anything in the garden. This would cause an interesting conversation about the early church’s theological conundrum regarding what foods they should eat.
Third, God calls the human to trust and obey. You thought I was going to say NOT eat from the tree of knowledge, right? Well, that’s true, God does do that. While God permits the Human to eat freely, God prohibits eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Walter Brueggemann writes about these verses, “The primary human task is to find a way to hold the three facets of divine purpose together.” We have a purpose from God in caring for God’s creation, which includes caring for each other. God permits us freedom and free will, yet God also calls us to trust and obey. This is really what is happening here. We do God an injustice when we reduce what is happening here to a “don’t do that,” command. In fact, command is the wrong word. It is an invitation to trust and obey the Creator.
When we are told to keep out of the cookie jar, it is so that we eat our healthy dinner. Our parents (or wife) tell us that because it is good for us. We have to do the same with God. God is longing us for to trust and obey. And it is not because God needs us to, but because God loves us.
Lent is a prime time to consider how we are or are not trusting and obeying God in our lives. This season of self-reflection invites us to contemplate how we may over used our free will to the point of not trusting and obeying God.
How are you trusting and obeying God?
Resources: Brueggemann, Walter. Genesis. John Knox Press, 1982.