6 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. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”Genesis 3:6-13
The story of the Fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden is the opening scene in the story of God’s work of redemption. That may seem an odd way of saying it. But, if you stop and think about it, it’s true. If God had decided that he was going to start again, we would not have the story!
The fact we do have this retelling of what happened is evidence that God had a greater purpose in mind. He was not dismayed or discouraged by what happened. I would even say God was prepared for it.
In light of God’s grace to continue working with the human race, we can ask some questions about what does it look like to be held responsible for our mistakes? In particular, I wonder how we make sense of what God said and did when he confronted the first couple?
As we consider these questions, I am sure others will come up. And as they do, feel free to write them down and let me know. I would be interested in considering them as well.
The subject of personal responsibility can be difficult to address. Not because we don’t all have an instinctive sense of what should happen. It is difficult because we are not always eager to apply the same standard to ourselves!
If we are ever going to mature as people; to grow in wisdom we have to do our best to not pass off the consequences of our choices to others. We have to accept that our actions were the catalyst for what ended up happening.
With this in mind, I think the story of the Fall provides us with an excellent backdrop for a conversation about Personal Responsibility.
I. Who was responsible for what happened in the Garden of Eden?
- Who is the one that is most often blamed for what happened in the garden?
- The one responsible was Adam.
- It was to Adam to whom God had given the authority to care and tend for the garden and everything in it. This responsibility included Eve, his wife.
- This story is less about who is to blame and more about what happens when we as individuals fail to take our responsibilities seriously.
- The story of the fall has to do with fulfilling the responsibility or responsibilities God has given to each one of us.
II. What is responsibility?
- In short, it is the ability to respond to what is presented to me.
- Example 1: If I see a car approaching someone who does not see it, I have a responsibility to warn the person in danger.
- Example 2: If I see a car approaching someone who does not see it, but I am at home and don’t see the car, then I can’t be responsible for warning the person in danger. I don’t have the ability to respond to a danger I am not aware of.
- We should begin to look around at the different areas of our lives to see where I have the ability to respond, and then take the necessary steps to change what needs to be changed.
- When we assume responsibility for something completely out of our control, we also feel guilt for something we had no power to change, or even influence.
III. Most of what we get ourselves into is our fault.
- Take more initiative in ordering your life by God’s ways and commands rather than your own. (Ps. 37:23-24)
- The first place to look when something begins to go in a way we didn’t want or plan is to look at ourselves. We must then decide if we are following the will of God in it or not.
- Until we make this assessment, we will do our own thing, and the blame God for it.
Originally Delivered on Sunday, January 14, 2007. It has been edited and expanded.