In the previous post I suggested the possibility of a non-historic fall, that the text can be understood as indicating an accurate record of what has been the driving factor in the arena of human choice. An ancient text but maybe even the language suggests a root issue that is very pertinent to a society that is separated some millennia from that original story.
We read of the generosity of God – ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden’ except for one tree. We do not meet a killjoy God, but one who opens up all possibilities with boundaries. Boundaries are certainly a recurrent OT theme, from Sabbath, foods, neighbours’ boundaries etc. Maybe we could suggest ‘enjoy but respect boundaries’ as a strap-line for both the garden of Eden and the OT, and of course the word translated as ‘trespass’ covers this aspect. We can add the concept of disobedience or rebellion, but the wording in the text surrounding the fall is such an up-to-date critique:
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
Saw – delight – desired – took – ate.
Some versions even use the verb consumed! ‘I saw the latest… really want one… must consume’??? Consumerism is not very original but could well be at the heart of the original sin. Endless ‘more’ becoming the path to destruction. Shuts God out, causes alienation horizontally, causes problems for creation – then opens the door to murder, exploitative building projects, secure national boundaries. Maybe when we say everything is mine to possess we release ever greater measures of disruption, chaos and conflict. Certainly seems to be James’ perspective:
You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions
Contentment with enjoyment counteracts the never ending drive for more. And perhaps it is cultivation within the boundaries that God sets (work), and cultivation for the ‘other’ that is to shape society. Taking responsibility for the sake of the other might be the kingdom pathway. Although addressing the thief, if we understand the original insatiable drive for more as robbery, the Ephesian text becomes very pertinent:
Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
There is a total reversal – as is always the case with redemption. Taking what is not our own (the negative – the Fall) to working with one’s own hands (the neutral – Creation) to giving to those in need (the positive – Redemption).
Likewise Jesus dies the death of the common criminal, the trespasser, the thief, to rise and become a Life-giving Spirit.
So coming to a close – do we read primarily of an emphasis on individual sin or a critique of human society, and indeed a very accurate critique of our Western capitalist driven society? I am neither suggesting that there is no critique of other societies, nor that entrepreneurship is wrong – certainly not… Yet ancient texts loosed from our desire to have them as historic records and allowed to roam free as holy myths might release their power and open up other ways of reading. What if Abraham / Israel were called to live counter-cultural to all the nations of their day? What would the implications of that be? Where might that lead us in our writing out loud?