[Reflections on the Old Testament Lectionary Reading for Mar 13, 2011]
God created paradise on earth. God planted a tree in paradise. This tree’s fruit contained the knowledge of Good & Evil. God warned us that this tree’s fruit was poisonous.
This sounds quite strange to us today. How could learning right from wrong be a bad thing? Later in the story, scripture tells us the answer. In fact it is the serpent who plants the idea that serves as a warning. The serpent says, “when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5, NRSV).
Our problem isn’t the degree to which we understand good from bad; our problem is that we try to play God with our ideas of what’s good and evil. We judge others. We convict others. We punish others. And maybe the worst part of it all is that we blaspheme God by attributing our judgment to God.
This problem is part of our nature. We must constantly fight against the temptation to believe that we have sufficient knowledge or that it is up to us to pass judgments on other people. We see things that “seem” bad to us all the time. We want to pass judgment. Who could be more guilty than someone like me who writes a blog about things that “seem” bad to me (like judging others!)? We must find some sort of way to stand up for what’s right without ascending to the godly task of deciding who is evil and who is good.
The stakes are higher for those of us who have more power in the world. Those with economic, political, and military power have the unfortunate curse that our judgments have more powerful consequences. When we judge a person or persons to be evil or in the wrong, we have the worldly might behind us to make them suffer.