In order to understand why eating fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil would lead to death for Adam and Eve we have to first gain an objective understanding of what “good” and “evil” are.
In the last post, we examined the Biblical definition of “good”. In this post, we will address “evil”.
In the last post we saw that “good” is “that which creates”. However we also saw that sometimes circumstances call for short term destruction in order for there to be long-term creation. So the complete definition of “good” is the idea of “that which creates in the long-term”
Biblically speaking, evil is presented as the opposite of good. So “evil” would then obviously be defined as “that which destroys in the long term”.
The seduction of evil
When we are tempted to do evil, we are tempted to do something that will (or that we think will) be good; that will create something for us (pleasure, happiness, satisfaction, reward, etc.). But it only creates in the short term, and the long-term results are destruction.
There are many obvious examples of this – drug and alcohol abuse, reckless driving, lying, cheating, theft, sex with Kim Kardashian (boy, do I regret that now. Thank God for penicillin).
We also saw in the last post that the ultimate expression of “good” is eternal life – perpetual creation. Conversely, the ultimate expression of “evil” would be eternal death – perpetual irreparable destruction. Hell.
Taking the long view
The key to determining whether something is good or evil is to look at the long-term intent and results. For example, saving your money is good because the long-term results are the ability to buy a home, send your kids to college, and enjoy a secure retirement. But in the short term, it means the sacrifice of certain pleasures. On the other hand, if you spend all your money as soon as you get it, you can have a great time in the short term, but the long-term results are a future of poverty and debt.
Understanding long-term vs. short-term is also a key to understanding God’s actions in the Bible, in the world, and in our lives. God is good. He creates in the long term. His focus is not on our short-term happiness; His focus is our long term good. The ultimate long-term good is eternal life. And if God has to introduce or allow short-term pain, discomfort, distress and frustration into our lives in order to drive us toward accepting and embracing the things that will lead us to eternal life, then that is what He will do.
When persistent and/or unusual calamities occur in our lives, instead of complaining and questioning God’s goodness, it would probably be more beneficial to ask, “God, what are trying to drive me towards and how will it work for my long-term good?” That, my friends is contrastive thinking!
Contrastive thinking can lead to eternal life, which again, is the ultimate expression of “good”. Therefore, we can say that contrastive thinking is good. Comparative thinking prevents repair and can lead to perpetual death. Therefore, we can say that comparative thinking is evil.
Yes, its OK to judge
So how can you tell if a person is good or evil? Actually, you can’t. None of us has enough comprehensive information about another person to categorically declare their entire being good or evil.
This is the rationale behind one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible – The admonition not to judge in Matthew 7:1. This verse is often used by a guilty person as their defense when you confront them about their wrongdoings. (Have you ever heard an innocent person tell you not to judge them?) Instead of owning up to their guilt, they try to sidestep it by attacking your right to accuse them. But we are told later in the same chapter of Mathew that we can and should judge what a person does (Matthew 7:15-20).
So while we cannot judge whether a person, is good or evil, we can judge if they are pursuing good or evil. How? Examine the long-term intent and results of their actions. Is the focus of their life the pursuit of creation or destruction? Do their actions lead to repair, and life, or do they lead to stagnation, and destruction? Are they motivated by the desire to grow, even if it causes them discomfort and pain, or do they actively justify themselves in order to avoid pain? When they are wrong, do they think comparatively or contrastively?
What a person pursues in the long-term is the key to understanding their life. Furthermore, examining your own life and looking at what you are pursuing in the long-term can allow you to see if you are headed toward life or death.
Now that we understand good and evil, we are ready to examine the ramifications of Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But before we do, there is one more question that needs to be addressed. God’s plan of redemption (the Fall of Man, the incarnation of Christ, the cross and the Resurrection) all seem predicated on the existence of evil. So, does God need evil in order to bring about His plan? Does good need evil in order to exist? Next time.
Create Good, Destroy Evil
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