Like the Forbidden Tree in the Garden of Eden, temptation will always be right there, in the middle of the garden. Not off in some hidden corner, but right in the middle. And I think that God has designed it so, to give us a choice. In order to be able to choose Him and to choose to obey, there has to be the possibility of disobeying. God doesn’t want robots that were designed to obey and love Him; He wants people who will freely choose Him.
The only way to really keep away from the forbidden fruit that will always be within easy reach is to focus on all the other trees in the garden that God has given us. (And to stay near to the heart of God. Draw near to His heart and get to know Him better, and sin doesn’t look so enticing anymore.) Because the longer we focus on the forbidden tree, the better it looks and the easier it becomes to excuse our steps toward it.
“I’m just looking at it . . . I’m just smelling it . . . I’m just touching it . . . I just picked it . . . Oops, I just took a bite! How did that happen?”
Gazing at sin (or selfish desires) and entertaining ideas of it draw us nearer to it without our even realizing it. Drivers have been known to plow into cops that have pulled someone over on the side of the road because these drivers were looking at the side of the road to see what was going on. And they didn’t even realize that their car was following their gaze. Our natural inclination is to go where we are looking. And it is our daily challenge to keep our eyes on Christ and His blessings, and not on forbidden fruit or selfish desires.
Colossians 3:2: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.”
Not only does looking at forbidden fruit make it more appealing and accessible, but it makes us more and more discontent with what we have. We see more and more desirable things about the forbidden fruit, like Eve began to see that it was good to eat, good for wisdom, etc. And we become less and less satisfied with what we have.
I think this explains a lot about the unhappiness that many find in marriage, because they buy into the “grass is greener on the other side” lie. They convince themselves that “if only I were married to someone like so-and-so then I would really be happy.” They covet what other people have instead of focusing on, caring for, developing, protecting, and finding satisfaction in the marriage they have.
Additionally, our country today – even many Christians – are enamored with materialism. We see all the toys that others have and all the fun that they are having, and we think that we have to have it, too, in order to be fulfilled. We are “keeping up with the Joneses” just like everybody else because we don’t want to miss out or appear “less than.” But is this easy access and abundance of stuff making the people in our country any “happier,” more fulfilled, or more godly? Or are we pursuing the wrong things? Creating our own discontentment with our desire for “more”?
Temptations will always be there - the temptation to sin, to turn possessions or prayer requests into idols, to strive for “better” things than what God has given us, to find fulfillment in selfish pursuits or in someone who is not your spouse. Temptation and enticing offers - like that Tree in Eden - will always be within easy reach, in the open, smack dab in the middle of the garden. (And, of course, in all the dark, hidden corners, too.) And we need to learn to keep our eyes off of it, to delight in all the other “unforbidden” parts of the garden that God has given us, and to be obedient, no matter how enticing the fruit looks.
And if we gaze at, admire, or tinker with the forbidden fruit too much, we shouldn’t be surprised if we fall into sin. It is by our own evil desires that we are enticed and dragged away into sin.
James 1:13-15: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
It’s funny to me how we can act surprised when we sin, when we do something that we knew we shouldn’t do. We act as though, “Wow, how could I have done that? I’m shocked,” as though our surprise might convince God that it just wasn’t like us to sin. But we are ignorant - deliberately ignorant - of the fact that the ability to sin and the temptations are always right there, giving us the choice daily to obey or not. And we ignore the part that we played in entertaining the idea of sin, in inviting it.
It is no surprise that we sin, as though the impossible or completely irrational has happened. We have simply chosen to sin, to gaze too long at the forbidden fruit. We have chosen to pursue things that God does not want for us. We want the delight of tinkering with sin in our mind, and yet we are surprised when we actually do it. We want the delight of acquiring an abundance of stuff or fulfilling personal desires, yet we are surprised to find that our spiritual life is suffering because “stuff” has taken the place of God in our hearts and minds.
We need to keep in mind that Forbidden Trees – selfish delights, selfish pursuits, and sinful options – are always there. And we need to be deliberate about keeping our eyes off of them and keeping our eyes on God and on the blessings that He has given us. And when we do sin (which is going to happen) or when we have discovered that “stuff” has replaced God, the only proper response is “Forgive me” and to turn back to God wholeheartedly.
Forbidden fruit is always easily accessible. How much do you gaze at it? How close do you walk to it? Are you reaching out to touch it just a little bit? Forbidden fruit never forces its way into our mouths by surprise! We willingly draw near to it a little more every day until it is way too easy to excuse taking a bite. Focus on and draw near to the Lord instead! It’s the only way to stay on the straight and narrow!