Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, Why do people do what they do? Why do you do what you do? The human brain is a phenomenal creation of God. It contains literally billions of nerve cells that are arranged in specific patterns that control the functions of your body. Certain parts of your brain keep your body functioning and work involuntary –that you don’t even need to think about them – like your heart beating. And connected to your brain are tons of nerves throughout your body to sense things. The nerves in your hands can sense pain or cold, your eyes sense light patterns and translate them into images that your mind processes, your ears hear sound patterns and your brain processes them for information. And based on information our brain tells our body to act or do certain things. But we all know that the actions of people are not strictly based on logical deductions. People do irrational things. People do horrendous things. Why? Why do we see terrorists who bomb and murder innocent people? Why do people trample other people in stores in order to get a certain Black Friday deal? Why do politicians often lie in order to get in office? It doesn’t matter how much education, science, technology, social programs are developed on thing remains: evil people. I ran across an interesting quote from the 1926 Minnesota Crime Commission: “Every baby starts life as a little savage. He wants what he wants when he wants it—his bottle, his mother’s attention, his playmate’s toy, his uncle’s watch. Deny these and he seethes with rage and aggressiveness, which would be murderous were he not so helpless. He is, in fact, dirty. He has no morals, no knowledge, no skills. This means that all children, not just certain children, are born delinquent. If permitted to continue in the self-centered world of his infancy, given free reign to his impulsive actions, to satisfy his wants, every child would grow up a criminal, a thief, a killer, a rapist.” History shows over and over again the evil nature of people. Even Aristotle said, “Man is born on an inclined plane, and is subject to a constant downward gravitational pull.” We see evil in the big picture, we also see evil in the small picture of our own lives; we see what we do is not purely logical, we see anger, jealousy, selfishness and a host of other horrible things that aren’t logical. What’s going on? Clearly evil is not simply a matter of the mind or of the environment, it’s a matter of an infected, inherited evil heart and will in every human.
To understand this we need to understand our true human nature and to understand the cure we need to understand God’s true nature. We can all trace our roots back to the same father and mother, Adam and Eve. And if we want an answer to the evil we see in the world and the evil we see in ourselves, God provides such an answer in telling us from where we’ve come.
When God first created the world He made everything absolutely perfectly. Everything He made by simply speaking the word and it came about. However, when it came to the top of His creation, the prize of His creation, He was hands on forming Adam from the dust of the ground and using a rib out of Adam’s side to build Eve. He brought Adam and Eve together and Adam greeted His wife, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Well, sometime after creation one of God’s angels rebelled against God and took a bunch of angels with him. God sent him from heaven and doomed him to everlasting judgment in hell. Now, put yourself in Satan’s shoes. You’re going to suffer horribly forever. And you look up at this world where you have a man and his wife, everything is great for them, everything is wonderful for them, they love God, God loves them, they love each other. And what do you want? You want to bring it all down. Misery loves company.
So, Satan takes on the form of a serpent, a snake and he begins to talk to Eve. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Really? That little word is actually quite telling. You see, he’s not really questioning whether or not God made that command, rather, what he’s saying is that it’s laughable. “Did he really say that? Was he really such an idiot, such a jerk, to say that?” Notice what he’s doing. He’s not appealing to the brain, he’s not appealing to the mind or logic. What is someone doing when they say something like this to you, “Do you really believe that?” That’s not a logical argument. Rather, what Satan is doing here is appealing toward an attitude of the heart, of the will. And it can be very influential, right? Imagine being a student in a college philosophy class where the professor singles you out as a Christian and says, “Do you really believe that? You don’t believe that, do you?” It’s not a logical argument, it’s an appeal to an attitude, “I don’t want to be thought of as the person who believes that!”
Satan is not dumb. He knows where sin and rebellion against God begins. We’re sorely mistaken if we think the big deal in this account is that Adam and Eve reached up and took a fruit off the tree. They certainly did that, but sin always begins in the heart and then leads to action.
Eve responds. But we’ve got a few problems already here. She’s talking with a snake. She knows snakes aren’t supposed to talk, they don’t have vocal cords. And this snake is challenging what God clearly told them. But she responds that God said that they could eat from any tree in the garden except for one tree. And if they did, they would die.
Then Satan steps up the attack: “You will not surely die! For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Wow! Totally contradicting the clear words of God. Now, what’s at the base of Satan’s lie and temptation here? Notice what Satan is really going after. He’s not denying the existence of God, he’s not denying God’s holiness, he’s not denying what God said. What’s he really going after? He’s really denying the goodness of God. “If you obey God, you’ll miss out. If you obey God, you won’t be happy. If you obey God’s will, it’ll cut off all your options, it will keep you from being all you want to be. You won’t thrive and flourish.” You see? He’s denying the goodness and love and grace and goodwill of God behind the command. “If you obey God, you can’t trust His good will. You can’t trust him. You’re going to have to take your life into your own hands.” He pictures God as a selfish, envious brute who has forbidden something from you because he knows eating from that tree will give you secret knowledge that will make you like Him. Make you god. That’s at the base of all sin: that God and His will are not really good. And in a way, we’re tempted in two ways here. First, if I can’t trust God to be good, then I can’t trust that His laws and commands and will for my life aren’t good. They’re only meant to hold me back and make me miss out on something fun. Then all of a sudden God’s laws against sleeping with someone outside of marriage are meant not for my good but to hold me back from something “fun.” God’s laws against harboring anger or jealousy or unforgiveness aren’t for my good, but are His way of restricting me. But we’re also tempted to fall into another wrong ditch as well. If I can’t trust that God is good, then I need to follow God’s laws not because I want to or because God is so good to me, but because I need to force God to bless me. This is how this works: As long as I live correctly, do what God demands, then God has no choice but to give me what I want. This too is a result of failing to trust God’s goodness.
And notice the result. When our first mother stops trusting in the goodness of God, she disobeys God’s command and so does her husband who was with her. And what happens next? They realize that they’re naked. They need to hide themselves. They need clothes. Why? God’s not around, it’s each other. We humans hide from each other, we can’t possibly bear to have other people really know who we are. And when they hear God coming? They hide from him. Why? They feel guilt, they’re ashamed, they’re afraid of Him. And when God comes and God questions, what’s the response? “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” What’s Adam’s response? “She made me do it; send her to hell; give me another wife.” Basically he’s talking to the holy God of the universe about his sin and what do you have to say for yourself? “Take her.” He throws her under the bus to justify his sinful behavior. Notice the result of not trusting the goodness of God: Our relationship with ourselves is broken – I need to hide who I really am otherwise no one will accept me! Our relationship with other people is severed – no longer do I have only love and service to other human beings, they are now means to my own ends. And our relationship to God is severed. Now God is the enemy, we’re afraid of Him, ashamed, and guilty.
Because of sin, our nature is to hide. But because God is good and loving, it is His nature to seek and to find. In love God comes after them. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he [Jesus] will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” God is going to do something. God is going to send an offspring, a child, a son of Eve’s who is going to crush Satan’s head.
You see there was another garden, another tree, and another struggle. It was Eve’s descendant Jesus, who was struggling in a garden about a tree. The garden was Gethsemane and the tree was the cross. He knows He has to go to the cross and die for our sins and pay the penalty that we owe in our place as our substitute, and He’s struggling, sweat like drops of blood. Adam and Eve were in a bright sunny garden and God had told them, “Obey me about that tree, and you will live.” And they didn’t. Jesus, however, was in a dark garden, and God said, “Obey me about that tree, and you’ll be crushed,” and He did, for you, for me. He climbed that tree of death and turned that tree of death, the cross, into a tree of life for you and me. Not much has changed. The tree of sin in our lives is this thought that we can put ourselves where only God deserves to be, put ourselves in the place of God. The tree of salvation is God putting Himself where WE deserve to be, on a cross and dying there. That deals with our sin, that also deals with this thought that “I can’t trust God to be good.” All the problems in life, the toxins in our life, our sin are finally caused by not believing that God dearly loves you. Not believing the grace of God. What’s going to overcome that? There’s only one thing: Seeing Jesus climb the tree of death and turning the tree of death for him into a tree of life for you and me!
Knowing that Jesus did that restores how we feel about ourselves: God loved me so much that He bled and died to forgive my sins, I’m washed, I’m clean, I’m forgiven. Knowing Jesus restores how we view other people: they’re not means to my own ends, but people, souls for whom Jesus died and rose, I can treat them as such. And knowing Jesus restores our relationship with God: He’s not my enemy, but my dear Father who rescued me, washed me clean of my sin with the life and death of His own Son all that I can someday enjoy glory with Him forever!
That’s the cure for evil; that’s the cure for human life. Thank God for Eve’s Son, Our Substitute. Amen.