Trust, Gratitude and the Joy of Obedience
Various theories have been proposed to explain the pervasive attitude of unhappiness that plagues our generation. I want to propose a new theory that can perhaps explain the negative mindset that is all too common. It is the advertisement industry that is to blame. The underlying message of every advertisement is: “You will not be happy unless you get this product/service/vacation etc.” in other words, since you don’t have what we are selling, you should be miserable.
It’s just a theory, take it or leave it. But it may help us understand the episode described in Genesis chapter 3 where the serpent persuades Eve to eat from the fruit of the forbidden tree. How did he do it? Adam and Eve were in paradise! What were they lacking?
The serpent used several arguments to induce Eve to violate God’s commandments. One argument that the serpent presented was that God gave them the commandment which forbade them from eating from the tree for their detriment. According to the serpent, the commandment was not presented with the best interest of man in mind (Genesis 3:5). Another underlying theme that is present in the serpent’s argumentation is that the system, as it appears on the surface, is flawed. The serpent reasoned that man “deserves” to know the knowledge that could be gained by eating from the tree, and that God is withholding this knowledge from them for reasons that are not in their best interest. The serpent proposes a method of bypassing the system and “rectifying” the situation. Instead of obeying God’s commandment, go and violate it, and that is where you will find your happiness. And finally, the serpent offers an exalted spiritual state, above and beyond the state that God had placed them in – “You could become like God”.
Two of the character qualities that Eve could have used to deflect the arguments of the serpent are; trust and gratitude. If Eve would have exercised a complete trust in God, she would not have been moved by the serpent’s reasoning. She would have realized that the God who created her is not “out to get her”. The God who so lovingly brought her into being, and supplied all of her needs and desires, is not withholding something from her that would bring her true happiness. The Creator of all did not create a flawed system that could only be bypassed with a “trick”. And the Giver of the Law did not give the Law to curse His creations.
If Eve would have exercised the quality of gratitude, she would have been thinking about all of the positive things that God put into her life, instead of allowing the serpent to draw her focus to the one thing that was forbidden to her. The serpent’s arguments magnified the one forbidden tree in Eve’s mind. With an attitude of gratitude, she would have seen that tree in perspective. She would have realized that there is a paradise full with beautiful trees that God allowed me to enjoy. She would have realized that the one forbidden tree was there for her benefit – in the sense of giving her room to express her love and loyalty to her Creator through obedience.
If Eve would have focused on the joy inherent in a created being hearkening to the voice of the Creator of all, she would not have eaten from the forbidden tree. It is only by distracting her from the sense of connection that we feel by obeying our God that the serpent was able to get Eve to eat from the forbidden tree.
The conflict between the serpent and Eve finds an uncanny parallel in the age-old conflict between the Jew and the Christian missionary.
The missionary argues that the Giver of the Law presented a Law which brings a curse down upon the human race (Galatians 3:13). The law, argues the missionary, is not something that can benefit man; it was essentially given for the detriment of man. According to the missionary, the system, as it appears, is flawed. Man “deserves” perfection and immortality, and God is withholding it from them. It is only by circumventing the system, through the acceptance of an unnatural belief, that man will get what he “truly deserves”.
The Jew resists the arguments of the missionary with the same tools that Eve should have used to resist the arguments of the serpent.
We have an implicit trust that God gave us the Law as a blessing not as a curse. We trust that our loving Father did not create a flawed system that requires a “trick” to get what He is “withholding” from us.
Our sense of gratitude towards God has us focus on the joy of life, on the holiness that God breathed into our souls when He originally created us. Our sense of gratitude allows us to enjoy the world that God created and the Law that He presented to us. It does not allow us to concentrate an unhealthy focus on concepts such as: “the impossible nature of the Law”, or “the depravity of man”.
And our joy in obeying God’s command prevents us from being moved by an argument that is utterly devoid of obedience to God. Did you notice, not one of the missionary “proof-texts” can be misconstrued to read as a “commandment” to believe in Jesus.
The prophet Jeremiah encourages us with God’s words – look back at the exodus from Egypt, when God carried us through the wilderness. Were we lacking anything? All of our needs were met both material and spiritual. We enjoyed the embrace of our Creator, what more can we ask for? (Jeremiah 2:5).
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal