Selective Memory

Since it is our privilege to live during the 2000's, we–as a race–can look back at the thousands of years of human history, and learn from others’ discoveries, breakthroughs, and moments of inspiration, rather than relying on our own.  Many things still in use today can be traced back centuries: Women who wear eyeliner can thank the Egyptians, who began using cosmetic eye paint 6000 years ago.  If you’re finding the length of one side of a right triangle, a2 + b2 has equaled c2 since about 400 BC.  The ancient Chinese produced gunpowder, fireworks, the magnetic compass, ice cream, paper, and printing when other cultures were still emerging from the Dark Ages.

However, for all of the useful inventions we’ve inherited, it’s also very easy to track some of humanity’s most persistent follies all the way to the archaic roots of the great family tree.  In Genesis 3, we find an account of the very first woman on earth erring in a way that seems all too familiar to us today–Eve’s mistake is still our mistake (and importantly, this particular error occurs before the first sin).

In Genesis 2:16-17, we read Jehovah’s instructions to Adam and, by extension, Eve, the tenders of His garden.  “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely, but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.’”  Though these instructions seem simple enough–straightforward and easily memorable–Eve apparently had trouble with them.  Not only did she end up breaking the one negative command from God, but her remembrance of the Lord’s instructions is interesting.  As Satan questions her in Genesis 3:2-3, Eve gives her version of Eden’s laws.  “The woman said to the serpent, ‘From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.”’”

Did you notice the difference?  Now, it could be that we simply weren’t privy to all of the Lord’s instructions to the original couple–maybe at some point He stated things as Eve put them in chapter 3.  However, it is interesting that the Spirit chose to preserve the two statements of God’s law (as spoken by God and then by Eve) in rather different language.  Eve conveniently alters the Lord’s command by omitting His wish that from “any” other tree they may eat “freely”, while adding in her own personal innovation, claiming that she and Adam were unable to even “touch” the forbidden tree.

How familiar this seemingly minor but potentially disastrous mistake is.  The grace, the goodness, the open-handed generosity of the Lord is downplayed; meanwhile, the stringent requirements He has placed upon such faithful, load-bearing souls as ourselves is trumped up, making the burden seem heavy indeed.  God had created a bountiful paradise for His crowning achievement, man, to live in and enjoy–man, in his characteristically self-centered and arrogant way, chose to view such a haven as a merely adequate living space with a deadly hazard at its very center.  As Eve’s sons and daughters would continue to do for the rest of our race’s existence (up to and including today), she chose not to focus on what was freely given, but was instead hung up on what she couldn’t touch.

I certainly see quite a bit of myself in this case of selective memory.  I recognize the half-pouting manner that I picture Eve assuming as she reveals to the serpent how difficult life in the garden is.  I recognize the callous indifference evident as she quickly glosses over the inexhaustible material blessings on hand.  And I recognize the ease with which such substitutions are made, how deftly one can choose to look at things through man’s eyes rather than God’s because it better serves a particular selfish purpose.

What is your view of the Lord’s instructions for you?  Do you obsess over what you aren’t permitted to do?  Do you ever set aside some time to take spiritual, mental, and physical inventory, and feel exhilaration over the countless blessings God has granted you?  “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.  And His commandments are not burdensome.  For whatever is born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith” (1 John 5:3-4).  Consider the triumph we are promised, and the ease with which it may be obtained.  Eve’s mistake may be an ancient one, but it is not one worth making.

—Drew Jones