This passage in Genesis also speaks into our acquisition of knowledge. Throughout Scripture God pleads with humanity to gain knowledge, insight and wisdom. The apostle Peter even urges believers to ‘add to their faith…knowledge’. God wants us to study His word, to discover truth, to walk the right path. Moreover, God praises the humble and those who are teachable.
God means for us to adopt the posture of a life-long learner.
And yet, in this passage God plants a tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and He commands mankind to not eat from it! What is that about?
You see, it is important to God how we come to know things. (The sub-category attitude to learning – if you will.) He does not want us to idolize knowledge (Jeremiah 9:23). Nor does He want us attain knowledge without love (1 Corinthians 8). In fact knowledge is supposed to build up and edify the Church (1 Corinthians 12). It is important how we acquire knowledge, and for what motive.
In this passage, God presents Adam with an option, to acquire knowledge instantaneously, through disobedience to God’s word, to His commands. To acquire knowledge via worship of the intellect rather than worship of God (- for we cannot serve two masters)!
What is the alternative, how else will Adam discover the knowledge of good and evil? It is intended that Adam discover what is good, by obeying the good command of God, by experiencing the “goodness” of creation as declared repeatedly throughout Genesis 1. To see evil, as disobedience to God’s will, by experientially ignoring/subduing the snake – (or by speaking God’s truth in place of the snake’s lies – just as Jesus did in Matthew 4).
The rest of the Bible supports this, approach to acquiring knowledge. We are told to acquire knowledge through:
- Obedience to His commands
- Careful study, meditation and response to God’s words (Psalm 1, Matthew 7:24)
- Through love and relationship with God and mankind
- Through stillness, rest and sitting at Jesus’ feet (Psalm 46:10, Luke 10:38-42)
He does not want us to take shortcuts to knowledge, that bypass experiential knowledge. One commentator that I read, notes that the rise of “enlightenment” taught that we can learn through detachment and isolation. God’s word, on the contrary, teaches that we learn through involvement, relationship and experience. Through obedience and engagement with God’s word.
God wants us to learn. He wants us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. To be set free by His truth. To be still and know that He is God.
When we are tempted to reach out and grasp at knowledge to satiate our pride, to garner power for ourselves, to elevate ourselves above others. Let us remember Christ, who did not: “consider equality with God [something to be grasped at] to be used for his own advantage. Rather He made Himself nothing taking the form of a servant and becoming obedient even to death even death on a cross (Philippians 2)!