“Who told you that you were naked?”
What a question; can you imagine the lack of self awareness? It sounds like it might be an excerpt from the Hans Christian Andersen folktale “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” but it is not. Some may remember it from reading through the book of Genesis. The context appears early in chapter two; it is in the garden that God had planted to provide a place of pleasant work for His creation; humankind, His image bearers.
Work was not designed to be a punishment; it is in fact a blessing, it can provide an essential self worth and a way of honoring God, but it is not a replacement for grace. God was asking the question not to obtain information, which is why we often ask questions, it was more like a loving parent trying to help his child be honest.
Adam and Eve had been given one rule about life in this perfect garden where there were no weeds and always the right amount of water to grow all kinds of food and most certainly flowers. It had to do with a single tree that was easy to recognize, it was planted in the middle of the garden. I am not sure when the fruit of that tree was assumed to be an apple; it could have been a fig, a pomegranate, or even an olive, the point was not about the fruit anymore than being naked, it was about disobedience.
There may be some who suggest God had set poor old Adam up for failure; unfortunately a popular idea that still persists today. A sin-provoking God who constantly tests us is not a new idea, it was a subject that James the half brother of Jesus addressed centuries ago. “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (James 1:13-14 NIV).
The story is a familiar one, Eve was apparently somewhere in the middle of the garden when she begins a conversation with someone identified as simply the serpent, who asks a question. Its question was one that was so successful the enemy of our soul still uses the same question today — “Did God really say?” Once the question about what God has said is planted it sets up the enticement that James warned about in verse fourteen which he follows with “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:15). Paul would later write to the churches of Rome “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Adam never really tried to answer the question of his disobedience, he instead tried to find someone to blame and that blame was passed around: the women, the serpent.
While we may still attempt to find someone to throw under the bus, an even more popular approach is to deny that God has the right to ask the question. Or as an old friend of mine was fond of saying “God created man in His own image and man has been trying to return the favor ever since.”
Bill Upton is a retired chaplain of the Tooele City Police Department.