Imagine a road.
Maybe it’s a curvy road. It’s a bit dangerous. So somebody sets up guard rails.
The guard rails help, some. They decrease the number of people who drive off the road, damage their car, injure themselves.
Yet sometimes, careless of sleepy drivers veer into the opposite lane. Occasionally, there are head-on collisions. Head on collisions are never good things. So they set up a guard rail running down the middle of the road. And it becomes even more safe.
But once in a while, cars are moving too fast or they are too heavy. They drive through the guard rail. And so they put a second set of rails inside the first.
But even two rails aren’t enough for the faster, heavier cars. So they put a third, a fourth, a fifth.
At the end of this process, the road is left so narrow that nearly every car is bouncing off of them. Some people (presumably those with out much interest in the appearance of their automobiles) even grow to depend on them; they are more careless on this heavily guarded rode than they otherwise would be, knowing that the rails will keep them from driving off.
A good chunk of the freedom people would have had, in the form of space, is just eaten up by the rails. Drivers are limited, now. Perhaps it used to be two lanes in each direction. Now, it is only one. Tempers flare because nobody can drive around slower people in front of them. The original goal is achieved: nobody drives off the road. But is it truly safer? Is it better?
We are handed rules all the time. Often they are good. With the best of intentions, we set up these guard rails. And sometimes, the first set, maybe even the second, these are good, too.
I see this in the church all the time.
The bible says that we shouldn’t get drunk. Good idea. People set up the first guard rails. Maybe don’t have 3 drinks. Also a good idea. (o.k. kind-of a good idea.) And then there is a second set of guard rails: don’t have 2 drinks. And then a third guard: Don’t drink at all.
It’s not a bad thing, not to drink. But when we treat the third guard rail, (don’t drink) as if it’s God’s idea, bad things can happen.
I realized, recently, that this is not new. In fact, it’s one of the first things that people ever did.
God told Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Eve reports to the snake, ” God says we must not eat it or even touch it, or we will die.”
We don’t know where the miscommunication comes in. Or why. But it seems to me that the most likely thing is that Adam built a guard rail. To keep Eve away from the fruit he added the idea that they couldn’t even touch it. Who knows? Perhaps he even convinced himself of this.
I can understand why he might want to do this. It would be a pretty dangerous thing, to stand there, fondling and ogling fruit that you are not supposed to eat.
But to claim that the order comes from God that we can’t even touch it… I imagine that Eve stood there, in the garden, and when she touched the fruit and nothing happened, it might have motivated her to take that next step. It would be easy to think, “Well, I wasn’t supposed to touch this, and yet nothing happened when I did. So presumably when I eat it, nothing will happen either.”
I wonder how many people thought that God said we shouldn’t drink at all. And then they had a drink, and the world did not come crashing down around them. And it called into question everything they had been told about God, everything they believed about God. And they decided God didn’t have much to offer them, words that they thought were his turned out to be wrong.
I don’t believe that we are meant to Genesis literally. But I do believe we are meant to take it seriously. I think the whole book is seeped in layer upon layer of wisdom. This seemingly insignificant detail about Eve is just one tiny little nugget of that wisdom.