On Facebook the other day, I posted this picture ...
An old high school chum commented on it, essentially asking:
"Why did God place the tree right there? If He's God, He should have known what they would do, so why not place it on some other continent?"
It's a good question, and one I imagine others asking. Here's my argument in response. If you can add, challenge, or detract from it, please, by all means. I'm eager to learn what people think.
Well, if you know God's reason for creating the earth and all that's in it, especially us, it's pretty simple. What do we give God? When you were married, you gave her certain things she didn't have and vice versa. I know that's the case with Karyn and me, and I'm sure with the Jacobys and the Malamocos, as well. But what do we give to God He didn't already have? Nothing.
So why did He create us? Out of love. To share in His happiness, His joy, peace, and love for ever, especially the love, out of which all the other things are born. Think of any time you were in love, especially at first. Wasn't it just so joyful? I know it was for me. I was walking on clouds.
But by its very definition, love requires sacrifice. For love of her baby, a woman will not only undergo tremendous pain in labor to deliver it, but during the pregnancy, if she's sick, she might even refuse necessary medical treatment if it would either harm or mean losing the child. Your mom, did she love changing your diapers or telling you or one of your siblings the same thing over and over again? No, but she did it because she loved you and wanted what was best for you. Your dad, did he love his job? Maybe, but most dads don't. Why did he do it? So he could provide for your mom and you three kids because that's what was best for you. Someone rushes into a burning building to save another human, whether they're related to them or not. That's love. A priest runs about a live battlefield to comfort and give Viaticum to the dying.
The common thread connecting these examples is that there's no self-interest there. None of this is about "ME." It's about the other. Because what is love? It's not a feeling (although it can involve feelings, like a cake can involve frosting or filling). It's actively willing the good, the true good, for the object of that love.
But if I put a six-shooter to your head and ask, "Do you love me?" and you out of fear don't answer, because the answer's no. And then I lock the firing hammer and ask you again, and this time you say, "Yes," because you know if you say, "No," you'll die, do you really love me, just because you said it?
When I ask you if you love me, if I'm sincerely wanting your love, then I want your answer to be sincere. Therefore, I'm going to give you the freedom to choose the answer that you know is true.
Now Genesis doesn't state these things explicitly, but Adam and Eve lived in God's love. This is why they had been created: to receive His love and to love Him in return. So if God had given them no conditions, no sacrifices to make, how could they have known whether they did or didn't love God? How could they have made the choice to say, "I'm not going to do XYZ because I love God."
It's like a spouse who says, "This person of the opposite sex in front of me is ready, willing, and able. Part of me is, too, but I love my beloved so much, I won't do that. I won't eat of that forbidden fruit."
The tree being both right there and verboten, John, wasn't about the tree. It was about the people who had access to it. And really, it was less of a tree and more of a floating question: Do you love Me, especially enough to not do this one thing -- this one little, measely thing I ask you not to do? Look at this place, Adam and Eve. It has everything you could possibly ever really need or want. It's yours for the taking. Just don't do that one thing, OK? So do you love Me enough to respect what I'm asking of you? Do you trust Me? Those two questions run throughout the Bible, especially the trust one. And it's why people in Scripture (and we) often fell (fall) into sin: Lack of trust in the promises of God.
That's getting a little off topic. In any event, it's the same question God asks us today. Do you love Me? What does Jesus Christ say are the two greatest commandments? "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” This sums up all the 10 Commandments. Concerning the second, do you will the good for yourself, or do you purposefully do things that will destroy or even kill you? Most people would say they will the good for themselves. Great, Jesus is saying, do that to others, too. But first love God above anything else, no matter what the cost, because look at what it cost our first parents.
That's why the tree was there: To help them trust in God's promises and to help know what love was all about. And they blew it. And if you look at the punishments each received, they're directly related to teaching us to love, each according to the distinctiveness of the two sexes.
So sorry for the very long reply, but that's the answer to your first two responses. And the reason is that this response is so long is that I respect your intelligence enough -- trust me, I know how formidable it is -- to not give you a sustained and thorough argument.