I don’t know much about the seven deadly sins, but here are a few reflections on Three Big Temptations. It’s my opinion that the story of Eden is archetypical. In other words, intentional told in a way that typifies broad human experience. Like all good literature, it portrays truth about our human condition.
In puzzling out what might be so wrong or bad about eating the fruit and knowing good and evil, perhaps it helps to realize that in the temptation (verse 3:5), the Hebrew YADA (to know) can be read as “to distinguish” or “to ascertain” and thus perhaps “to decide for oneself”. It seems the temptation was about going after the means to decide for ourselves what is good and evil and thus declare independence from God. Whether or not we think of it as punishment, the consequence of such independence is being allowed to live in the world as the most powerful species, but having cast off wise divine limitations on that human potential.
Our Lections present in parallel the BIG 3 temptations faced by the woman in the garden with the Big 3 faced by Jesus in the wilderness. Some commentators connect these by way of the 3 categories in 1 John 2:15-17:
- desires of the flesh
- desires of the eyes
- the pride of life.
Parallels in the garden temptation (3:6) are expressed “when the woman saw that 1) the tree was good for food, and that 2) it was a delight to the eyes, and that 3) the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate;”
The parallels in Jesus temptations (Matt 4:1-11) may not be precise but seem awfully similar to current temptations of our own civilization.
- Use your power to make food (exploit resources to support consumerism
- Make a show of being protected by God (invest in the cult of image and flaunt it to your advantage)
- Be shrewd enough to take control of the world simply by giving the devil his due
But depending how we “spin” these, they may even sound like blessings: 1) meeting bodily needs. 2) possessing something that looks good -gives me a good image 3) becoming smart enough to be in control is something to be proud of.
Perhaps such temptations are all the more powerful because the goals seem so justifiable and even admirable. Surely it is not a sin to have enough to eat, or to be beautiful, or to be wise and knowledgeable. But if “knowing” means to “decide for ourselves” independent of God’s instruction, then perhaps even admirable goals are apt to become corrupt and result in exploitation. It’s almost impossible not to see this situation on planet earth today.
We decide what food resources to exploit, but by utilizing genetic modification and poisonous chemicals. (Ecological Exploitation)
We decide what looks good and how to utilize image and celebrity status to get what we want (Social Manipulation). Most automobile and beer advertising is not about transportation or actual beverage, but rather about the sense of freedom, power and sexiness: the image that you and others will have of yourself if you just use the product.
We decide how to put ourselves more in control. Now most often through information technology (aka spying). Many nations presume God is on their side and attempt to prove it by using their military power. Our own desire to wrest control from devilish world leaders may be admirable, but if we do it by deciding for ourselves how to utilize our knowledge of the world instead of by Gods instruction and wisdom (such as the cross), the temptation to end up actually honouring the devil ourselves in the process will be irresistible (Political Exploitation).
With a related slant, Trevor Herriot in his book “Jacobs Wound: A Search for the Spirit of Wildness” suggests that “Jesus turned aside the three temptations of civilized life”:
- To seek ease and comfort above all else
- To presume knowledge of the divine will or to confuse it with our own
- To acquire wealth power and prestige at any cost.
You don’t have to answer this of course, but as we approach Lent, what are the temptations you faced or are facing this year; this week? Where do you think they fit in relationship to the Big Three?