One of the most traumatic experiences of my childhood was an early spring day. The day was somewhat wet, but the drops weren’t big enough to be considered rain, just a light drizzle. I had a few friends over to hang out and after playing video games for four hours, my mom forcefully encouraged us to play outside. As you can imagine I was in a tough spot. My friends didn’t really want to play outside in the rain, but my mom was insistent that we get some exercise. I wanted them both to be happy so I tried to encourage my friends to play outside. This is where I made my mistake. To show my friends that the outdoors weren’t all that bad, I went outside. In a swift move my friends locked me outside the door and proceeded to chat about girls and whatnot on the other side of the door (Yes, I understand Joseph’s position in the bottom the cistern very well). When I finally did get back in the house I was understandably upset and started to vent my anger. This is when my mom finally decided to take action (thanks mom) and I got in serious trouble. I think we’ve all had times when we’ve felt suckered into something that at first seemed like a good idea but then turned out to be one of the worst experiences ever.
A quick read-through of the first three chapters in Genesis will show even the most basic reader a time when humans got suckered into something that they didn’t really sign up for. We have a villains, the serpent. We have victims, Adam and Eve. And we have a hero, God. Or do we? After all, the serpent didn’t create the tree of good and evil, God did. Why would he dangle this tantalizing bit of failure right in front of their faces? And isn’t God all-knowing, so why didn’t he stop Adam and Eve before they ruined everything? I think the real question is how can God be all that good if he just watches humanity do evil things? And why did he even give us the option to be evil, how can that be good?
A critical question we need to ask is how was the tree of good and evil actually a good gift of God. On day three God makes plants and whatnot grow out of the ground and calls it good. I don’t think we have any reason to say that the tree of good and evil was not created and called good on that day. So, how is it good?
Imagine you are Adam and Eve. You are in this garden, surrounded by great and good gifts that God made for you to enjoy. God also gives them the opportunity to worship him by obeying him. If worship is declaring something’s worth, by word or action, then Adam and Eve had a daily choice to worship God by saying no to the tree of good and evil, and display their love for their God. So the tree of good and evil is a very good gift of God for Adam and Eve to show their devotion and a way for them to show their relationship with God as supremely valuable.
OK, so the tree isn’t all that bad, but why didn’t he stop them from breaking his command? A phrase that comes to mind is “A gift that’s demanded is no gift at all”. Love that forces a certain response is not love at all. If God chose to lightning bolt himself in and save the day he would be taking away Adam and Eve’s choice to choose him, and I think that his love for them prevented him from doing that. There is so much more that could be said, but I don’t have a book (sorry).
To answer the question succinctly: God made everything and it was good. But, out of his love for us, he let us have a choice. We could choose him, or we could not. In choosing to obey him we show how great and good and valuable he is. We could not do that without a choice between good and evil. Even though we blew it, God made a way through the cross, an event of choice where Christ willingly chose to make amends for our poor choices.