Every story has an introduction, a problem, a rising tension, a climax and a resolution.
In order to really understand the story of humankind, we have to deeply understand the problem of humankind. If the problem doesn’t make sense, then the solution doesn’t quite make sense either. The problem in our story is that Adam and Eve took of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil when they were told not to, but what problem did this actually create for us as humans?
First, as a result of Adam and Eve disobeying, their standing with God went from innocent to guilty. The second problem came about from their desire to be like God and was amplified by the type of fruit that they ate – The fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
As Adam and Eve wanted to be like God, this fruit opened their eyes to becoming judges in their own minds. Now they could decide what was right and wrong and what was best for their own lives. The result is that all of us constantly gravitate towards finding life where there is no life. The bible calls this problem sin.
All of us as humans have a longing to be who we were created to be. The fact that we can’t figure out how to restore ourselves leaves us with a lot of anxiety and pain. We cope with this pain by constantly going back to things that aren’t necessarily bad in and of themselves but weren’t meant to bring us life. When we engage in these coping mechanisms we engage in sin behavior. Keep in mind though that sin behavior is just a symptom of a bigger problem which is that we keep looking for life where there is no life. Because the behavior itself seems to give some semblance of life, it keeps us from going to the true source of life.
In the story of the woman at the well in John 4, Jesus says to an outcast that “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink.’ You would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” This living water is life that we all long for, but as long as we are satisfied with something that vaguely resembles life (sin), we’ll never become desperate enough to run to Jesus as the living water.
Often times as Christians, we can have a tendency to try to focus on changing the symptom of our problem. Keep in mind the coping mechanism – our sin behavior is just that, something you are coping with. If we think of that as the big problem, our natural tendency is to judge ourselves and hide in shame as Adam and Eve did. But what if sin was actually helpful to us? Just as symptoms are helpful to a car mechanic in diagnosing the underlying problem, sin behavior can be helpful in diagnosing the real issue.
This is the reason why we are called to live in the light, to invite community into a process of diagnosis and solution. We no longer need to cower from our own sin in shame, but step back non-judgmentally and invite the Holy Spirit and our community to speak truth into it.
Matthew 6:25 speaks about the relationship with the symptom and the root problem when it says, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life…” If you’ve ever tried not to be anxious when you are stressed out, the only thing that happens is that you become more anxious that you can’t get rid of your anxiety. If you notice though, it starts with therefore, so we know that the non-anxiety results from the passage right before that. Verse 24 says “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” So we know that the anxiety is a result of serving multiple masters. Verse 22 explains, it says “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.”
Jesus describes this process of what happens when we worship things other than God. Whatever we worship (depend on for life) becomes a lens that we see the world through kind of like the eye being the lamp of the body. When we worship money for example, we begin to objectify other people and see their value based on their wealth, we objectify God and see him as a means to get what we want, and we see our value based on how much of it we have. The symptoms then becomes our actions in light of doing whatever it takes to get more money, and the anxiety that results from it not fully satisfying.
The same thing can be said about sex, education, popularity and even ministry. It’s often neglected because ministry is seen as good, but so are the other things, but when they become our object of worship, it distorts how we see life. With ministry, we objectify others, see them as projects, we see God as a way to accomplish our goals, and we see our value based on our performance. It’s important to note that all the things I’ve mentioned that can be our gods are good things, but when distorted become a source of sin behavior and anxiety.
The solution that Jesus gives in verse 26 when he says “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” When we see reality through the lens of God, we begin to see other people as inherently valuable, image bearers of God, we see God as good, because while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, and we see our own value as inherently valuable. Our longing for value and our search for it outside of ourselves comes to an end when we believe that our value is embedded in our very existence.
Believing in truth becomes the solution to our problem of sin. Next up is the process of repentance and how it moves us towards believing in truth and leads us towards thriving.