Stop, Look, Listen: The Price of Sinful Choices

Stop, Look, Listen: The Price of Sinful Choices

Written by: Pete McClanathan

When we last left Eve and Adam they had just completed the sorry progression of temptation and disobedience. The result was a disaster for them and for human history.  The whole of scripture following Genesis 3 is a description of mankind struggling to make his way in a dangerous, fallen world, and the account of God’s work in carrying out His redemption plan.

Biblical history, centuries of general human history, and our own experiences demonstrate the devastation of the fall, and it is everywhere. Moody Radio pastor Chris Brooks has said it well: “Everything is as we would expect it to be if the Bible is true.”

One question continues to beg for an answer. That question is: How could this happen? How could the woman and the man, living in God’s paradise and experiencing intimate relationship with Him, surrender to deceit?

Christian scholars over the centuries have sought (and continue to seek) understanding, without clear consensus. Discussions involve important topics such as the nature of God’s will, the nature and extent of man’s free will, the effects of the presence of evil, and the unrevealed parts of God’s plan and purposes. The topic in some ways is significant, for it prompts us to consider the “hidden things” of God.  

But I’m going to suggest that, at the end of the day, such questions have little bearing on our lives. Quite simply, we will not find clear answers nor do we need to in order to carry out the Bible’s instructions, warnings, and promises for life in Christ. Scripture is abundantly sufficient for those things:

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29)

“Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end.” (Dan. 12:9)

“Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways.” (Rom. 11:33)

Meanwhile we are tasked with learning to love and obey God, and with managing the very real matters of temptation and sin. It would be helpful to review what we’ve already seen to be the strategy of temptation: 1) question the final authority of God’s Word; 2) encourage negotiation over the meaning of scripture; 3) raise questions about the wisdom and goodness of God; 4) minimize the consequences of disobedience.

By understanding these strategies, it would seem that resisting them would be an easy decision. We have the Word of God telling us, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3)

We have the biblical accounts as well as our own observations and experiences of the ravages of sin. Why would we think it would turn out otherwise for us?

There is a foolish but common human behavior when one is confronted with a difficult or dangerous choice. Psychology calls it the self-exemption fallacy. It offers a place to hide, a self-deceived private place in our minds to insulate us from the reality of our choices. The essence of the fallacy is this: It won’t happen to me, and if it does, I can manage it.
It is what allows drivers to speed, to operate recklessly, or to drive under influence of intoxicating substances. It is in operation whenever an employee embezzles or a shoplifter steals. It convinces a student he will not suffer from cheating or a worker to think he can be lax in performance of his work.

The self-exemption fallacy disguises the real possibility of pregnancy from a young couple engaging in illicit sex. It allows an adulterous spouse to assume there will be no consequences. It deceives youth and adults alike that there is no danger in using street drugs, or simply that taking care of one’s health through wise nutrition and lifestyle choices really isn’t that important.

There is a common theme to all of the above. In each case deception is accepted or even welcomed as a means of dealing with obstacles to what we believe we do or don’t want. The focus is on management of practical consequences.  

We see it plainly at work in the Genesis 3 account. Eve concluded it would be okay to question and deviate from God’s Word. The rewards offered seemed attractive. “Maybe,” she could have thought, “God wasn’t thinking of how the fruit of the tree could help us when he prohibited eating it. This actually doesn’t seem like such a big deal, certainly something God could overlook. Besides, God made us the special jewel of His creation, didn’t He? Certainly He wouldn’t allow us to suffer harm or loss even if what we do is occasionally foolish and disobedient.” 

Eve was negotiating the practical consequences in her own mind, and it could be said that she did a decent job covering herself, albeit foolishly. But Eve apparently did not account for the most serious consequence:

“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.  And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (Gen. 3:7-8)

Let’s ponder the ramifications of those two verses, and we’ll pick up the discussion in the next article.

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