Photo by bmcmath on Morgue File.
Imagine that tomorrow, all of your duties and obligations evaporate for the day. You get the day all to yourself, to do anything you please. What types of fun activities would make your day?
In my teen years, I was a Poison fan . . . no, not a fan of arsenic or anything like that, I am talking about the rock group (or hair band if you prefer) known as Poison. They were one of the bands that hit it big in the late 80’s and early 90’s when hair metal was in its heyday. Poison was comprised of four members: Bret Michaels (lead vocals), C. C. Deville (guitar), Bobby Dall (bass), and Rikki Rockett (drums). They were known for their good time anthems with quite a few (read A LOT!) of sexual overtones.
One of their songs was Nothin’ But a Good Time. I remember the video and listening to the cassette tape in my Walkman radio I got that year for Christmas! The lyrics blare the anthem of all those who are tired and weary from a full work week, or a lifetime of toil and grind: Don’t need nothin’ but a good time, how can I resist? Don’t need nothin’ but a good time, and it don’t get better than this! (And yes, I remember the lyrics from memory!)
The idea, on some level, is an appealing one. A day or week or month just to veg out and do nothing but have a good time. A break from work, responsibility and the clock. Of course, we all experienced this very thing in large measure when we were children . . . we were just too young or naive to appreciate it then! It is an irony of life: as a child you can’t wait to be bigger and older, then you become older and want nothing more than to relive your youth. This desire persists through adolescence and the teen years. You spend so much of your time looking ahead, looking forward. You cannot wait to be out of middle school, then junior high, then senior high. You get to college and you work and hope for the day you graduate, to get a job and finally be in the real world.
Then, you live in that real world for a number of years and you begin looking back in nostalgia to when you were young. And there are days you wish you could rewind the clock and be a child or a teen again. If for no other reason than just to be able to enjoy the ease of youth. As one has said, youth is wasted on the young. I heard someone once say he thought life was backwards (it was probably a comedian or a philosopher, sometimes the two are hard to distinguish!) He said he thought it should be that you are born older (like Benjamin Button I suppose), start life working and learning with your hands. Then, as you progress through life, you actually become younger. Until the time you are ready for retirement, you are a youth and can truly enjoy it! Doesn’t sound too bad to me!
Yet, there is a reason for it all. Eternal youth and vitality were lost in the garden with the bite from forbidden fruit. Yet, it shall not always be so.
In the garden of Eden narrative, the serpent, is (as the text says) quite crafty. He would make a wonderful negotiator or antagonizer! He offers the first humans a choice: the choice of rebellion and disobedience. (When you read the text carefully his craftiness comes to light, especially in his luring offer: an offer that basically is nothing more than a knowledge of evil; and hence, sin, pain and agony.) He hisses the accusation in interrogative form: Did God actually say?
The seed of doubt was firmly planted that would soon produce the evil fruit.
The crafty interrogator continued his tempting questioning: Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?”
You see the craftiness in the question. The question itself is a bit ambiguous in its wording. Does it mean I can’t eat from any of the trees at all? Or, does it mean I cannot eat of every individual tree?
Eve’s stumbling reply mirrors the ambiguity of the temptation, her answer goes like this: 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.” Eve was no dummy. She understood the intended ambiguity and replied accordingly. You see, the first part of her answer reflects this and she nailed it perfectly. The problem comes in the second part of her answer. Perhaps this is why the Wisdom literature in the Bible constantly admonishes us to speak as little as necessary! Of course, I could dole out another piece of sagely advice here: if a snake starts talking to you . . . RUN AWAY! (It may be that the text is not saying it was an actual snake, but by calling him a serpent it was speaking to his character and intentions.)
The second part of her answer gets a bit fussy and muddled. Again, the first part of this second section of her answer she got right (i.e. but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden). Nothing wrong with that either. But the last part of this second section is where the rub comes into play. (I might point out a second piece of sagely wisdom here: Being mostly right, doesn’t make you completely right.) Eve seems to make two crucial errors. First, she seems to add to what God had commanded. When you look back a few verses to the recording of God’s original command, you do not find him saying anything about touching the tree. That is to say, it is not recorded God forbid them to touch the tree, only to eat from it.
Now, a quick aside here, there may be a couple of things going on here. First, it is important to note that Eve (going by the chronology of the account) was not yet on the scene when the original command was uttered. It was given in Gen. 2.16-17. Eve was created in 2. 21-22. Thus, she was not there for the original utterance of the command, only Adam was. It may be that God reiterated the command after her creation, or it may be that responsibility was left to Adam, to inform his new soul mate of the perimeters of life in the garden: the do’s and dont’s. Either way, based on her reply, it is evident she knew the command . . . how well she knew it is the real question. Second, it may be that God had later said something about not touching the tree and it simply is not recorded for us. Scripture, after all, is laconic, so it is possible. But, if we simply take at face value what is recorded, he said nothing about not touching it. Finally, while it may not have been verbally expressed, the prohibition not to touch it would have been a prudent one. The basic idea would be to avoid any temptation to break God’s command. In essence, stay as far from the tree as possible . . . don’t look at it, touch it, think about it . . . etc. Of course, then it becomes the red elephant in the room and is all you think about!
Which leads me to a second aside (an aside aside?!), one that I think is often missed in the morality of this narrative. Notice where Eve is located in the garden when the tempter comes . . . at the forbidden tree! Once temptation worked its poison, it says she took of the fruit; seeming to imply she was standing right by the tree in question! Now, it could be she was taking a stroll through the garden and ended up there, either coincidentally (unlikely) or by the leading of the serpent himself, or her own desires. Yet, it may fully well be that she was standing right in that spot the whole time . . . wouldn’t this tell us something? I could insert a third bit of sage advice here, but I will leave you to figure it out!
The second thing she definitely flubs up is the consequence to the supposed disobedience. Eve replied they should not eat from the fruit of the forbidden tree, lest they die. In other words, if we eat from it we may die; or, we could die; that is, there is a chance we will die. But, God put it emphatically, something the Hebrew brings out perfectly, there was no if’s and’s or but’s about it. God said the consequence would be, most assuredly, death! It was certain.
The serpent, knowing full well what God had said, really gets that part of it right more so than Eve did: but, he negates it. The serpent quickly, scoffingly rebutted, (in the Hebrew), Not, you shall surely die! His denial of God’s word and promise was as emphatic as God’s original command! This should have been a clue to Eve, at least to jolt her memory to the true wording of God’s command; but, alas, it seems her eyes are already fixated elsewhere and her heart and mind had no choice but to follow.
A second thing I think is often overlooked is the fact that Adam is there by her side the whole time. It says when she took the fruit she gave some to Adam, who was with her. (Something perhaps brought out in Eve’s use of the first-person plural pronoun, we, in the beginning of her reply.) Adam failed to protect his wife from the cunning of the serpent. Adam, being the one who originally heard the command in the first place, should have stepped between Eve and the serpent and taken the lead. Even when Eve took the fruit for herself, it was still in his power to say no. Instead, he watched helplessly and did not lift a finger to stop any of it. He was something of a cuckold here, standing by while his wife plunged into the deep.
Well, we know the rest of it all . . . we, in fact, are living it. It comes back around to the desire to relive our youth, to attain youth in perpetuity.
The bible does not end with that bit of bad news, however. Christ came to set right what went wrong in the garden. Where the first Adam failed and fell at the one tree, Christ, the last Adam, made right at another tree. He has brought a new covenant, new life and new creation. While we struggle and toil in this life, and want a little R & R and good times, we must remember something better awaits all those who trust in Christ.
Don’t need nothin’ but a good time, how can I resist? Don’t need nothin’ but a good time, and it don’t get better than this! It does . . . much, much better!
What say you?