Good and Evil
In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Do you know the difference between good and evil? Of course we know the Ten Commandments is a list of what is evil. But how do we define adultery? Is it only a matter of having sex, or is something like workaholism which takes away from the needs of ones spouse and family also a form of adultery? I think it’s the later, but not everybody does. What about capital punishment? Does the 6th commandment prohibit the taking of any life? Is abortion prohibited by this commandment? The pro-life movement perplexes me: it’s a sin to kill a fetus but killing a criminal is a good thing even though innocent people have been or nearly were executed. So, do you really know the difference between good and evil?
We are so use to the image of Adam and Eve eating an apple, we don’t take a look at the real meaning of the images in this Biblical fable. The tree they (we) are not to eat from is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The knowledge of good and evil is not something humans can handle. Yet we constantly think we can. We even encode it into our scripture and religious doctrine. Do this, but don’t do that!
Some might say that God gave us the rules we need to follow. The scripture below shows us that even Jesus acknowledged that much of the “law” in Hebrew scripture came from Moses. Jesus does not attribute it to God. He also points out that divorce was not part of what God intended for us. According to Genesis 2 God intended a loving relationship between God and us, and with each other. God also intended us to see creation as God saw it: as good. And we are to love and care for that creation.
Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her. But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. Mark 10:2-9
Thinking we can use “the knowledge of good and evil” causes a figurative death. Our relationship with God and each other become a mess when we act like we are God and truly know the difference between good and evil.
So what do we do about deciding between good and evil? Since we have free will, we wrestle with this question for our entire lives knowing that we will never have the right answer all of the time. But we should never wrestle with the question in a vacuum. We do have scripture, history, each other and a higher power to help us struggle with the answers. And, most importantly, we need to look to find answers that take us back to God’s original intention for us and God’s creation: a loving relationship between us and God, between each other, and with all of creation.
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