Pastor Joe Skogmo
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Lowry, MN
Lent 1 | 03.01.2020 | Genesis 2-3
The Forbidden Fruit story with Adam and Eve is one of the most famous in Scripture. Thousands of pages have been written on the many meanings and lessons we can draw from this epic story.
So although there are many meanings and implications from the Forbidden Fruit story, I’m going to try and focus on one lesson we can draw from it.
That lesson is this: beware the promises of snakes.
Before I expand on that, a quick retelling of the scene. Adam and Eve, the first humans created by God, had been living in the Garden of Eden with everything they could possibly need. There was one rule set by God: they were not allowed to eat the fruit from one tree (Genesis 2:17). Then, a snake, “more crafty than any other animal” (3:1) made the suggestion to the Eve that she should try and eat the forbidden fruit because it will make her and Adam “like God” (3:5).
Eve looked at the tree, “it was a delight to [her] eyes,” and she desired the fruit, thinking, as the snake suggested, it might make her “wise” (3:6), whole and complete, “like God.” Eve and Adam ate the fruit, but instead of feeling like God they instead felt shame, and aware that they were naked (3:7). End scene.
And real quickly, history has been unkind to Eve, placing far too much blame on her. So, briefly, I want to emphasize that Adam is not so innocent in all of this. First, he ate the fruit with no objection (3:6). Second, at least Eve was thoughtful about the whole situation—she even quoted God in her discernment about the fruit. Adam, “on the other hand,” says one scholar, “is utterly passive. The woman gives him the fruit and he eats as if he were a baby.” In other words, Adam is silent and plays along like a child. Then, later, Adam is asked by God what happened (3:12) and the juvenile tattletale blurts out, “She did it!” Adam is so pathetic in this scene it’s crazy. So, let’s be kinder to Eve, or, at least include Adam into the blame game more accurately.
Nonetheless, isn’t it fascinating that Adam and Even are given the whole Garden of Eden and still want more? I think this is where the book of Genesis is making a very important claim about humanity: we humans always seem to want more.
Something called existential philosophy makes the same claim, that we humans cannot escape the “experience of lack in our lives.” We always seem to wish we had a little bit more, constantly feeling that something is missing or incomplete in our lives.
In turn, we relentlessly search and consume things in hopes of filling that lack. A philosopher, Peter Rollins, uses the term “sacred-object” to describe that something we’re always chasing to fill the lack in our lives whether it “be money, health, relationship,” politics, experiences, etc.
In short, to be human is to always experience a sense of lack in our lives and suffering the unavoidable desire to fill that lack with some fantasized ‘sacred object.’
The Forbidden Fruit story with Adam and Eve is a ‘lack’ and ‘sacred object’ story.
Think about it. Adam and Eve have anything they could ever need…and it wasn’t enough, and then a sacred object came along, and they thought, “if only we could get [that] fruit we’d be whole; we’d be happy.”
Well, Adam and Eve got their fruit, they got their more, they got their sacred object…and what happened? They realized it didn’t fill their lack. In fact, it made them feel worse.
Adam and Eve were duped by the false promise of the snake. They felt lack in their life, and something came along promising to fill it, to make them ‘like God’—whole and complete…and it was all a farce. They got their ‘sacred object’ and they weren’t whole, complete, and “like God. No. Rather, the text says, they felt…naked. Something was still missing.
This is a central lesson of the Adam and Eve story: beware the promises of snakes. Be cautious of what you think is going to solve all your problems, be suspicious of the expectations you are putting on the sacred objects of your desire, and, also, be careful of the crafty snakes out there that are trying to exploit your desire.
And make no mistake, there are entities constantly trying to do to you what the snake did to Adam and Eve—and they are smooth, subtle, and crafty.
Don’t believe me? With all these things in mind, check out these commercials and the enormous promises they are making.
First off, these are great commercials. That’s the point.
The Coke commercial, my goodness. The lyrics of the song are almost literally describing, promising the Garden of Eden:
“I’d like to buy the world a home, and furnish it with love. Grow apple trees and honeybees and snow white turtle doves…I’d like to buy the world a Coke…[it’s] the real thing.”
They’re almost flat out saying, Yeah, the world is broken and lacking, but we have the thing to fix it. A Coke. It’s the real thing.
And that Snickers commercial! The tag line is literally “You’re not you when you’re hungry. Snickers satisfies.” Those words could almost perfectly replace the snake’s in the forbidden fruit story!” Eve, you’re not you without that fruit. You are lacking. That fruit will satisfy.
These are just food commercials. This becomes even easier when you use political commercials!
And we might think we’re smarter than to be fooled by all this, and some of us might be…for this commercial. But bombarded by advertising and our own insecurities, we begin to believe the snakes that tell us of the salvation that is on the other side of their products. Think of many things you have or have purchased that you regretted!? There’s a reason “buyer’s remorse” is a cliché we all know.
And here the Adam and Eve story is a lesson about snakes that promise more than they can deliver, that tempt us out of our trust in God and into the destructive tendencies that come with the pursuit of always trying to get more.
Today’s is a lesson that you and I experience inescapable lack on a daily basis, but the cure for that is not to fill our lack with things of this world, but rather to look at the love of God, the grace of God, and accept ourselves the way God accepts us—as we are.
If that was not true, then Jesus wouldn’t have resisted every temptation in the desert as he did in the Gospel today to prove his love for us.
We live under the “tyranny” that we can somehow make ourselves better or more whole with self-help plans, a better body, a better bank account, the right politician whatever, but finally it is only the grace of God that can free us from this tyranny. It is a grace that says, you don’t have to fill your lack with all these things. You do not have to listen to those snakes. You are enough, enough to live, suffer, and die for. Go in peace, for you are already loved. Amen.
 Peter Rollins in “Episode 29 – Philosophy and Radical Theology,” The Liturgists Podcast, TheLiturgists.com, http://www.theliturgists.com/podcast/2015/12/14/episode-29-philosophy-and-radical-theology.