Knowledge Of God
Have you ever impulsively made a decision that seemed so very right at the time, only to spend a great deal of time afterward wondering what in the world you got yourself into? That’s how I have felt since, one morning after finishing my study of the Acts of the Apostles, I suddenly decided that that very morning was the perfect time to begin reading the Bible in its entirety. I do not feel intellectually prepared for this long journey, but it also feels deeply right; may the Holy Spirit bless and guide my reading!
Diving into Genesis, I am truly struck by its relevance. Reading Genesis illuminates the fact that human tendencies form a kind of feedback loop, repeating through centuries in varied permutations but motivated by the same desires.
A moment that particularly impacted me occurred while reading Genesis chapter 3, which recounts Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden. In the garden, the serpent tells Eve of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “When you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil.”
This quotation, as well as the tree’s symbolic name, reveals something essential by identifying God with a very particular trait: knowledge of good and evil. It is sufficient to say that Adam’s and Eve’s collective error lay in wanting to be like God, but this identification allows us to go deeper. They wanted to possess knowledge outside the bounds of their humanity.
Is our own sinfulness not cut from this very pattern? Are many of our sins not motivated by desires for what the limits of our humanity do not allow? We want to indulge our bodies without suffering emotional consequences. We want prestige without putting in long hours. We want to eat tubs of ice cream without having to buy bigger pants. (Okay, I’ll always want that third one.)
We want to love Jesus without suffering for Him.
This moment from Genesis brought to mind one of my favorite moments in the Bible, found in chapter 3 of the first Book of Kings. The Lord appears to Solomon in a dream and tells him to ask for whatever he wants, and he shall receive it. Solomon replies, “Give your servant, therefore, a listening heart to judge your people and to distinguish between good and evil.”
Don’t Eve and Solomon both desire knowledge beyond their human limits – the knowledge of God? Where does the difference lie?
Solomon understood and glorified God as the source of all knowledge; he humbly asked that, while God remain the source of knowledge, He grant Solomon a share in it, so that it could motivate his own actions and make him a participant in the Divine. Adam and Eve, on the other hand, wanted to appropriate the knowledge of God, relocating the source of this Divine knowledge to their own souls.
When we wish to be like God for our own sakes, nothing is a gift anymore – all becomes a given. Thus, we can no longer be grateful to God.
If, on the other hand, like Solomon, we wish to be like God out of love for His superior Goodness and the desire for His Kingdom to flourish on earth, we will constantly cultivate awareness of and gratitude for His countless good gifts.
When we let God be God, we become our most loving, conscientious, and aware selves, living out the words of St. Irenaeus: “The glory of God is man fully alive.”