It is perhaps the best-known story in human history, the story of Adam and Eve. They ate fruit from the wrong tree. Right in the middle of the garden was one tree that was off limits, they were not to eat its fruit, they were not even to touch it. Well, you know the story, Adam and Eve did the very thing there were told not to do. They ate the forbidden fruit, and the first man and woman were evicted from the Garden of Eden, and the human race has been in trouble ever since.
If I were Adam or Eve, I would appeal the case on two accounts. The first would be entrapment. If God did not want them to eat the fruit of the tree, why did He make it so accessible? If you don’t want people to use something you hide it, you don’t put it in the middle of the garden and just say “Don’t touch!”
My second appeal would be that the punishment did not fit the crime. For picking one apple they are out of the Garden forever! And look what happens right away: the serpent tells Eve to eat the apple and it would make her like a God. She then gives it to Adam. God says to him why did you eat of the tree? And Adam points to Eve and says she made me do it. And Eve blames the serpent! And so we have the first split in God’s creation.
This story is not intended as a history lesson. Like the rest of the Bible, this story is a lesson in living. This story is about you and me. It is a reminder that we have been endowed with the gift of choice, and what we do with that gift will largely determine the quality of our living.
We can misuse the gift of choice and the misery that can bring to ourselves and others is beyond calculation, or we can use it wisely, and the right choices can enrich our lives and those around us. This gift of choice makes us most like God. As far as we know, none of the other animals have this gift of choice. They have appetites, and they have instincts, but not the gift of reflective choice.
Adam and Eve used their ability to choose in a destructive way. They ignored their responsibilities and overstepped their boundaries, and the result was sadness for them and God. But it did not have to be that way; it could have been totally different. The gift of choice is not a curse. It was intended as a blessing but we being human can turn it into a curse by misusing it.
I am going to tell you a story, one that I hear some version of nearly every day. A young man made a choice twenty years ago. A friend of his in high school had some drugs and he gave a sample to anyone who wanted it. The young man thought, why not? I’ll just try it and see what it’s like. It can’t hurt. He took his first dose of illegal drugs that day.
That was twenty years ago, and those twenty years have been a living hell. He has not been able to hold a job or keep his marriage together. He has been in and out of jail many times, slept under bridges and begged for food. All because he said I’ll give it a try, what can it hurt? Other young people were present that day who used their gift of choice in a different way: they had a choice and opted not to do drugs. Many went to college, some of them earned professional degrees, most of them have good jobs. They are responsible and respected in their communities. They have gotten married, they have children, and it all goes back to that day, twenty years ago when they had to make a choice.
Next time you face a choice, ask yourself a question: will I remember this day with gladness or sadness? It’s all up to you. The gift of choice is a great privilege. We can misuse it to our shame and sorrow but used the right way, it is potentially our highest joy.
The bible teaches that we are made in the image of God. Biblical scholars and theologians agree that we bear no physical likeness to God since God is Spirit, but we are like God in our capacity for free choice. We can calculate outcome, we can access costs, and we can act on principles. The choice is yours to make; what will you do next?