The Tree, The Fall, The Grace

Bosch, Hieronymus, 1482 or later, Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna
Bosch, Hieronymus, 1482 or later, Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna

Some friends and I were talking about the early chapters in Genesis and the conversation moved to what Christians often refer to as “the Fall“.  Someone asked, “Why did God put that tree in the garden and then tell Adam and Eve not to eat from it?  It seems like God was setting them up to fail.” 

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard someone ask this question, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. It’s a question I have asked too. It’s a not unreasonable question, given what we know about ourselves.  I think it is interesting that this question is a variation on the serpent’s questions. The serpent’s questions cast doubt on God’s motives- and so do ours. Our first instinct with this story is to view it through the serpent’s eyes. To question God’s motives. The implications of that are  musings for another day.

It’s an uncomfortable question we’re asking. Was God really setting Adam and Eve up to fail? It’s uncomfortable for many reasons, not the least of which is the obvious follow up question- Does God ever set us up to fail? This text raises questions about the trustworthiness of God. Can this God be trusted? It’s an important question and one that Genesis and the rest of the Bible strive to answer in the affirmative. Yes, this God is a trustworthy God. This God is committed to us and is ultimately dependable. The Bible tells us that in story after story.

But, this story, “the Fall”, doesn’t really answer the “why” question does it? We are not told why God put that tree in the garden . And we’re not told why God  said not to eat from it. As I have suggested before, perhaps it might be more fruitful (and yes I intentionally wrote “fruitful”) to ask some different questions.

Sometimes, I think of Bible stories as cut gems, crystals we should hold up to the light. If we look at the story from a new angle, try to see it from a different perspective, what else might we find?  If we do that with this familiar story, hold it up to the light, tip it just a little, will we see something new?  What else does this story have to tell us?  What else might we learn about God?

So we took another look at this story.  And then a friend saw something new and said an interesting thing. She noted we typically read this story as being about the beginning of sin, but at the same time, it’s also about the beginning of grace.  Now that’s a lovely discovery-the beginning of grace.

 Adam and Eve face consequences for their actions.  Their actions have altered life for all of creation. It became more difficult to till and keep the earth, to be fruitful and multiply. Now there will be toil and struggle. The relationships between humans and between humans and animals have become disordered. 

But God doesn’t abandon the creation. Adam and Eve don’t die, even the serpent survives. Life is hard after the Fall, but not impossible. God still cares. Before God sends Adam and Eve from the Garden, God makes them durable clothes.  And of course the relationship between God and humankind isn’t over.  God still depends on Adam and Eve  and us to do our part as the one’s who bear God’s image. 

In it’s own way, on it’s own terms, this story tells us God is trustworthy. This isn’t a story about a trickster God. It’s a story about a God who gives us choices, a God who trusts us with responsibility. It’s a story about a God we can trust to take care of us. It’s a story about a God we can trust even when we are not so trustworthy. It’s a story about grace.

I’d like to know what do you think?

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