The events of Genesis 3 have a continued impact on us every day. I think it is good to continue to study it closely. We know that the Serpent engaged Eve in a conversation that led to disaster. He started by introducing doubt about God’s word – “Did God really say…?” But let’s consider the Serpent’s second statement to Eve. Remember how he discounted the promise of death and offered an alternative that captured her heart, “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Her response to that offer, along with Adam, was not just a one-time thing. Yes, that moment was critical. But the temptation lingers for us all. Humanity continues to pursue some corrupted form of godlikeness to this day. We see it on narcissistic social media and in competitive work environments, and if we are honest, we can also see it in the mirror. It is helpful to notice how easily Christians still fall for this temptation, and yet we do it in a sort of “sanctified” or “Christian” way. Here are four variations that pull on us:
Be like God, knowing – Humanity has a hunger to be “in the know.” We don’t easily feel settled in a position of humility, even as Christians. Knowledge is compellingly attractive, especially when others don’t have it and we can feel superior. Is there not some of this “insider knowledge” permeating the gossip addiction in many churches? And what about the tendency many have to hold untested and uninformed positions as strong convictions? Some people find personal security in their black and white views on various issues rather than having the courage and faith to grapple in the grey zones of complexity and humility.
Be like God, controlling – Humanity inherently hates the notion of a God on the throne. This tension is clear in the moral rebellion of society, but it can still be there subtly in church world, too. We humans dislike being out of control. Whether it is sickness, or earning an income, or church decisions (don’t say “change!”), or whatever, don’t we tend to seek control? And sometimes, while we are striving to control situations, we seek God’s endorsement on our situation management by praying for his blessing.
Be like God, ruling – Humanity longs for God’s position. Pyramid climbing is the norm in the business world, academia, social gatherings – it is everywhere. Perhaps you have experienced conversations where the other person vies for position and seeks to establish their superiority through various tactics. Jesus has demonstrated our God’s self-emptying and humbling nature, and calls us to have the same attitude. Yet we can jostle for position and engage in “Christian” rivalry. We easily sanctify the act of climbing up our pyramids as long as it is for “godly influence” or “ministry.”
Be like God, alone? The world’s way of pursuing the “be like God” dream always includes getting rid of God in some fashion. It’s almost as if they know that there isn’t room for two “gods” and so must competitively dismiss all others to take their position. Perhaps it is this move to aloneness that is most sad to behold. We know that God is jealous of His unique position and glory. And yet God is not self-absorbed and glory-grabbing – He exists in a communion of loving glory-giving. He doesn’t pursue the subjugation of every person for the sake of His personal sense of security. Rather, He gives His very best to win the hearts of a corporate bride for His Son. He doesn’t exercise authority or dominion rashly, or selfishly; instead, He humbly pursues those who hate Him that His love might capture them.
But what about the throne? He will, after all, not share his glory with any other god, right? Right. But the Bible also gives the stunning expectation that those in Christ will get to rule, to sit with Christ on His throne. We will never be “gods,” for there is only one God. Yet He has reached down, humbling Himself, that we might be lifted up to reign with Him, to know Him, to love Him. The moment we compete with God, we push Him aside and find ourselves alone on our own throne. We move away from such riches for so little.
The issue underlying Genesis 3, in one sense, remains our issue today. Do we really know what our God is like and trust Him?
Let’s continue to read His Word and be gripped by who He really is and what He has done. Then perhaps we wouldn’t need to “christianize” and “sanctify” a worldly pursuit of power, status, influence, knowledge, and godhood in our mini-kingdoms. Instead, we could rejoice in the reality that far surpasses all our dreams yet inherently opposes all our fleshly pursuits. The difference? We are called to trust with humility, rather than haughtily grab. Be sure to keep your gaze on Him, even in church world!