Origins of… Temptation

Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1-6

So far, this series has looked at parts of the creation story and followed the threads to understand various aspects of our lives today. But creation isn’t the only thing that shapes our world. Humanity turned from God and fell, and the ripple effects of the fall still play out in all aspects of life.

This passage tells the story of how the fall came about. God had given the humans great blessing and freedom, but had also issued a single command to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The antagonist of the story is the serpent, and whilst the focus of the story isn’t where he came from, we know that he is the devil and he had already rebelled against God.

The serpent engaged Eve in conversation, and had a clear goal of tempting her to disobey God. He begins by undermining the truth of God’s word by asking ‘Did God actually say…?’ and suggesting the restriction was more severe than it actually was, then he outright contradicted what God had said and questioned God’s motives in giving the command in the first place. These are common features in the temptations that we still face to this day.

Eve took the bait. Even in her initial rebuttal of the temptation, she misquoted God, claiming that she was not even allowed to touch the tree. Eventually she saw the the fruit was a ‘delight to the eyes’ and so she ate it. She gave in to something that seemed desirable to her but was not of God, and then she gave some of the fruit to her husband (who had been passively sitting there all along and had not intervened – despite being the one who had received the command from God in the first place) and he ate too.

Some Key Points:

  • There is a spiritual enemy who wants to tempt us away from living in blessed relationship with God.
  • At the heart of temptation is undermining God’s word and questioning his goodness.
  • We go astray from God when what seems good to our own eyes plays a bigger role in our decision making than what God has said.

Following the Threads:

  • Numbers 11 and other such passages show how Israel followed the same pattern as Adam and Eve in giving into temptation and turning from God.
  • Matthew 4:1-11 echoes this passage in a lot of ways, but shows Jesus succeeding where Adam and Eve (and Israel) failed. In both cases the temptation is attributed to the devil, and in both cases the key issue is the word of God. “If you are the Son of God…” undermines what God had just said in a similar way to “Did God really say…”, though this time Jesus knows God’s word and uses this word to rebut the temptation.
  • Romans 3 is clear that we have all repeated the sin of Adam and Eve, and that it is only through Jesus that we are brought back into relationship with God.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13 teaches that we will face temptation, but when we do, God will provide us a way out. Giving in to temptation is not inevitable for believers.

Potential Applications:

  • Temptation Happens – Recognition that temptation will happen to all of us. Speak with empathy for those currently experiencing it and offer them hope that in Christ it can be overcome.
  • Importance of God’s Word – It is imperative that we treat what God has said seriously and we do not dismiss or minimise it, as this is the start of the path to giving in to temptation. Are we regularly reading and meditating on the Word?
  • ‘If It Feels Good, Do It’?  – This is the philosophy of our age, and yet it is exactly where Eve went wrong. We should be suspicious if our own desires are leading us to do something, and should take care to seek the input of God’s word and godly christians before we act on our impulses.
  • Grace – There will be people in our congregations who have recently given in to temptation. It is important to strike a note of grace and forgiveness, and emphasise that whatever mistakes somebody has made, there is forgiveness available for them in Christ.