Although most of us could not come up with an answer to the question of what God wants us to learn, He has been trying to teach man one thing from the beginning.
Adam and Eve lost Paradise for the same reason some of us today may not go to heaven. What eluded them is the same thing God expects of us.
God created Adam & Eve sinless, and they knew what was right without instruction. God made them thus without their choosing. They had no voice in their making. They needed, as we all do, to choose what kind of nature they would own. They needed to exercise free will and choice in their destiny.
The Bible Adam owned had only a single line. “Don’t do this one thing or you will die.” Until they disobeyed, they hadn’t experienced and learnt what wrong was.
Today, humankind can be wrong without effort. It is within us and requires no learning. We need to learn what is right. Doing right does not come naturally, or easily, and often involves the force of sheer will.
On Earth, this is the rule: Dirt comes easy cleanliness is tough. Sin comes easy godliness is rare.
God designed Adam and Eve to act in one specific way. As long as they served in this way, everything they did was right and permissible.
These two things — (a) the definite way to be and (b) the forbidden fruit define humankind even today.
I offer what I have understood to be the way of right and the actual forbidden fruit.
I would rewrite the Biblical command of the forbidden fruit as follows: “Don’t use reason to override your conscience or you will die.”
Eve did just that. She knew she was disobeying God, but found for herself, good reasons to do so. She, like many of us today, used logic to make wrong right.
We can use reason to please ourselves, or we can use reason to justify obedience to God. The first way is delusion and the second way is faith.
What God Wants Us to Learn – Submission & Sacrifice
God has designed man for submission and sacrifice. We fail in the same ways that the Genesis narrative describes as we continually eat of the forbidden fruit.
Eve needed to sacrifice and put to death the temptations of Satan, but used justifiable reasoning (the forbidden fruit) not to.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was (a) good for food and (b) pleasing to the eye, and (c) also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. (Gen 3:6)
How often do we use justifiable reasoning to avoid pain, loss, or other sufferings? How often to do we justify our wrong because of our potential gain?
Adam needed to sacrifice himself for Eve, but blamed God, and Eve, for his action. He wanted to excuse himself of his faults by externalising his motivations, will and deed. The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” (Gen 6:12)
How often do we try to excuse ourselves or externalise blame?
Cain needed to sacrifice himself and offer his best. He needed to accept another way and learn from Abel. Instead, Cain exterminated and destroyed anything that produced less advantage to him. Rather than working at improving himself, he tried to eliminate anything that seemed superior to him.
How often have we thus attacked another, or murdered relationships, or ran away from situations that showed us to be in a lesser light, rather than submitting and improving as a person?
The law of submission and sacrifice is primal. This is what God designed us to do. Man can and has achieved nothing without adherence to this law.
The story of salvation begins with the tragic tale of man misusing reason to override conscience, and then plunging into a defence of self, rather than spending self for another.
Humankind alone has a meaningful choice and free will. No other species can choose or change its own nature.
The choices man has are:
(1) To live worse than a beast by allowing sin to overcome self (Bestial self)
(2) Seek satiation of the sinful nature (Material self)
(3) Overcome sin and take part in the divine. (Godly self)
It is impossible for sinful man to overcome sin on their own and our Lord’s redemptive work enables the faithful.
Endless indulgence, at another’s expense, is the worst nature that man can choose. This bestial nature enables fathers to rape their daughters. It allows people to do the most shameful acts with animals. It produces terrorists, senseless murderers, rapists and drug peddlers.
At the other extreme, the godly nature lives out a life of endless sacrifice for the benefit of others. Every mortification taking it closer to a more glorious eternal existence in the continual presence of the divine.
In between the bestial self and the godly self, man can also exist in a material self. This third choice perhaps describes our species best. Neither so terrible that they deserve jail nor so disciplined that heaven longs for them.
Not hot, nor cold, but lukewarm.
This is the rule for the bestial and material natures: The strongest lion preys on the weakest deer.
The godly self is different in that the strongest lion dies to feed the weakest deer. Our Lord did this for even the worst of us.
Success Needs Effort For All 3 Choices
Effort means the exercising of will. Free will allows humankind to be and do as they choose. The fuel, or power, for our will, comes from the spirit.
Anger/aggressiveness is the easiest spirit for us to muster in our weakened state. The material self performs better with controlled rage. It produces above average focus and determination.
Sin deludes humankind to seek ways of being with least effort. In all three choices, however, success requires effort.
The godliest intentions are of little value without effort. The bestial/material self lives a life of putrid fantasy or mindless drudgery without determined efforts, hard work, focus and dedication.
Success is proportionate to effort. The effort is a constant. Our God is spending effort at all times and is always working. (John 5:17)
God calls us to exert effort. The godly spend effort for the benefit of others. The material self invests in an effort for their personal glory. Often the nature of some people is such that they are too lazy to make the efforts required even for their own benefit!
The bestial self has no need, or sense, of morality.
The material self negotiates morality, using it to control or subdue others. A virtuous morality is unimportant to succeed in the ‘rat race’. A businessman can lust, bribe, cheat, coerce, misuse his office and still make his business thrive.
A pianist or athlete needs only his abilities and skills. What they do in their spare time, when they are not practising their skill, need not affect their game.
The material nature needs a man to sacrifice material things to succeed. No one can do as they please and still succeed. People will need subject themselves to a strict regimen and discipline. Perhaps a controlled, focused diet and painstaking exercise.
The godly self needs individuals to live moral, virtuous, ordered lives. It is a life of continual effort against sin and internal disorder. For the godly, the soul is paramount and anything immoral is akin to the human tongue finding feces a delicacy. The godly need to do everything possible to work at changing their nature.
Can We Know our Own Nature?
When something bad happens, what are the questions you ask? Our questions are a window to our true nature. I believe our questions are one possible way of knowing whether we live in faith or delusion.
The material and bestial self avoids and averts loss of any kind. Shame, scandal, and gossip are food for their soul when it is occurring to someone else.
They are always in search of most comfort, the best seats, choicest compliments and nice things.
Their rule of wrong is this: ‘anything that hurts me is wrong.’ Anyone who hurts me is wrong. Their sense of right is limited to the satisfaction of false pride. As long as their vanity is satiated, everything is right.
They work at trying to change external situations and circumstances. They are worried and anxious about their image and do everything to protect it. They need the surety of money to feel safe, worthy, and free. Their need is to insist on their way.
The questions they ask are a variance of these. “Why does s/he always behave in that fashion,” “ What shall I do to teach him/her a lesson?” “How may I be superior to my neighbour?” “Why is God silent?” “Why is this happening to me?” “Why is life unfair?” “What is in it for me?”
They misunderstand other people’s behaviours and ascribe sinful motives to most acts. They are at war with a world that is threatening them and trying to steal from them their possessions, comforts, power, control and status.
The godly familiarise themselves with loss. They accept shame, and pain with joy, knowing each moment is one step closer to Christ. They put to death the desire to retaliate, and the desire to make things work in a manner that benefits them most.
They ask themselves a variance of these questions “Why am I behaving the way I do?” “How can I change?” “What am I supposed to see about myself from this negative experience,” “What is God saying now via this hurt/pain?”
They understand other people better and will see things from the other’s perspective.
The godly self is at war within, living a life of repentance resting on faith, hope, and love, maturing in meekness, mercy, and compassion. They are easily broken, not insisting on their own ways.
From the beginning, God has offered man these two realities. Either we submit to instruction, and by sacrifice put to death the temptations of sin, or go our own ways and indulge in the lack of God.
Either we die to ourselves and come alive to God, or die to God and be enslaved by evil.
Genesis teaches us what occurs when we are on either path.
The descendants of Adam and Eve follow two lines. Each line is completed in the 7th descendant. The number 7, as you know, means perfection or completion in the Bible.
Cain murdered Abel and in Abel’s place, Seth was born. Through Seth, the 7th descendant is Enoch who “walked with God” and lives forever with God. The line of Seth represents the Kingdom of God, those who offer their best at all times for another’s benefit. Cain could not offer his best even to God!
Through Cain, the 7th descendant is Lamech who was the epitome of wickedness. Those who use wicked ways to benefit self, and cannot wait on God.
Submission with sacrifice, or arrogance with indulgence; these are the two realities before man.
This one loud cry “Don’t tell me what to do!” characterises sinful man. Such a cry cancels any demand for submission or sacrifice. It opens the highway to doing as one pleases.
Neck deep in wrong, Man is lost. The Church holds the keys to our original godly self. It has the teachings to instruct, sacraments to feed and strengthen us.
We are never alone.
Either the Holy Spirit leads us higher and higher to our predestined calling, or we are pulled deeper and deeper by the evil one into the ugliness of our own understandings and insistence.
Doing something we agree with needs no grace of obedience. Loving those whom we like needs no grace of God. Insisting on our own ways seeks no God.
Pain and sacrifice come when we need to obey another’s standards or instruction. Loving not because we like someone, or loving those whom we dislike, needs genuine goodness of heart.
Giving up our comfortable and better way of doing things for someone else’s way, calls for daily repentance and mortification.
To suffer in this world, and give up this life for a life to come, needs faith.
To do as we please and enjoy ourselves as much as possible requires delusion.
The tragedy is that both faith and delusion are rooted in belief and reason.
Cling to Christ or remain attached to Adam. We choose our mate.