I can become obsessed.
I don’t mean like with a movie franchise, celebrity, hobby, or things like that. I mean with tasks. Sometimes, if there is something that needs to be done, needs to be fixed, or that I just can’t figure out, I am like a dog with a bone and can’t let it go until it’s completed to my satisfaction. If I do have to walk away for some reason, my mind is constantly on the problem and I have trouble shaking it until I either get back to the task or enough time has passed for me to push it from my mind, typically several hours to a day. This is especially true if it’s something computer or electronics related.
Sometimes I obsess over things that are important or at least are productive. For instance, if our ice maker stops making ice I’ll pull out the manual, look up D.I.Y. information online, try all the fixes, possibly even take things apart. My hope is that I can fix it now and save the time and money necessary to call in a professional. In a case like this, my obsession is useful as the end result produces something the entire family needs (ice) and shows good stewardship by maintaining what we own and saving money that can be used elsewhere.
Unfortunately, many times my obsessive behavior has little benefit outside of satisfying my own personal desires. For example, a freeware word processor might catch my eye, so I install it and give it a test run. In the course of doing so I might be interested to know if the program has macro support. If the information is not immediately apparent I begin my process of searching through menus, reading help files, doing internet searches, watching YouTube videos and attempting to create a test macro. I could be at this for one to several hours until I have either successfully created a macro or convinced myself that the program simply does not support that function. Here’s the reality. I already use several capable word processors, know how to create macros in them, and, in fact, have only needed a word processor macro at most ten times in my life. All my obsessiveness really accomplished was to satisfy myself that, if I needed to create a macro in this particular program, I could.
So why do I do this? Why is gaining knowledge that I may never use or need so important to me that it potentially affects my ability to do or enjoy other activities that are more important and pertinent to my life? I believe the answer might lie in the Biblical account of the Fall of Man as recorded in the book of Genesis (Ch. 3).
So, God has Adam and Eve covered in the garden of Eden. They have all their needs met and the only restriction that God gives them is that they may not eat from one particular tree in the garden, warning them that if they do so they will die. One day, Satan comes strolling along (or more accurately, slithering) and convinces Eve to break the rules and eat the forbidden fruit. What’s interesting are the words he used to persuade her.
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:4,5)
Satan didn’t appeal to Eve’s pleasure by saying the fruit was tasty or satisfying. Instead, he appeals to her mind. He entices her with the promise that she will be like God and have knowledge that she previously did not possess. In the end, Eve’s desire to be like God won over her submitting to the authority of God. The result was that sin entered the world and became a part of human nature.
That desire is at the heart of all sin, the desire to be like God. God, the creator, is in full control of all that happens. But we long to have that control, at least over our own lives. For me, being in control means making sure tasks are completed to my satisfaction or that I have the knowledge I need to accomplish something in the future.
Now don’t misunderstand, completing tasks and acquiring knowledge are not sinful in themselves. In fact, they are important. We couldn’t be productive citizens if we weren’t able to do our jobs or care for our families, and an essential part of being able to do those things means having the proper information. God urges us to be knowledgeable about scripture and we just learn things through our interests and interactions with others.
The problem comes when we become so focused on menial tasks that we forgo things that are more important and meaningful. For example, you might enjoy gardening. There’s nothing wrong with a well-landscaped yard. However, if you spend eight to ten hours each day every weekend in the garden, you might miss out on quality time with your spouse and children, or the quality of the inside of your home might suffer if it isn’t cleaned. A similar thing might happen if we strive to know as much as we can simply for the sake of knowing it. We follow every celebrity twitter feed and subscribe to every news and entertainment site so we can keep up on the latest gossip and hold up our end of a conversation whenever a topic is discussed around the water cooler. Unfortunately, all the time it takes to keep up with these information distracts you from productive things, such as work. (Yeah, let’s face it. We all spend time browsing the internet or checking our phones when we’re on the clock.)
Going back to my word processor example, in a little way I am trying to be like God. More specifically, I am trying to be my own god. At that moment, I don’t really need to know how to use that particular word processor, and I certainly don’t need to know how to create a macro. I just want to assure myself that I could if I ever needed to. I want to be in control. The fact is, if I gave up control at that moment and moved on to things more important or enjoyable, when a time ever came that I actually needed to use that program I’m sure I could have learned it then.
Same with God. If we let Him be in control of our lives instead of trying to run everything ourselves we could focus on what’s most important or enjoyable to us and when something pops up that we don’t expect, He’ll be there to help us through it. Furthermore, if we simply trust in His knowledge as He revealed it to us in scripture, then we don’t have to waste our own effort trying to figure it out for ourselves and make the wrong choices. Handing over control is fine as long as the one in control is all knowing, all powerful and ultimately good. God knows all that is going on, has the power to accomplish anything He wishes, and desires to use that knowledge and power for the good of those who put their trust in Him.
And this brings us back to the garden and Adam and Eve. The first thing Genesis tells us that the couple noticed once their “eyes were opened” was that they were naked. They were ashamed and quickly covered themselves up. It’s interesting to note that nothing about their physical condition changed from before they ate the fruit to after. They were naked before. They were naked after. The only difference was that after eating the fruit Adam and Eve knew that it was wrong to be naked. Now, whether or not nakedness was always wrong, or only wrong after the Fall isn’t something I can answer. But regardless, as long as Adam and Eve trusted God to be in control, God had them covered, even if being naked was improper.
The amazing thing is, even today, after the Fall, God still has us covered. Yes, we are like God in that we know good from evil and, as such, are personally responsible when we sin and follow our own hearts instead of God’s. However, God knows about our struggle, has the power to do something about it, and, in His goodness, sent Jesus to do what Adam was unable to do. Jesus allowed God to be in control and followed His commands perfectly. However, despite all this, Jesus allowed himself to be punished and endured his Father’s wrath in our place. (Rom. 5:12-21) In this way, God has covered the sins of all those who put their faith in Jesus.