The desire to decide what is good or bad without regard for God is the beginning of sin.
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.
— Genesis 3:6
When we speak of the fall of humanity in the garden of Eden, we’ll normally think about Eve eating the forbidden fruit and passing it to Adam. But is eating the forbidden fruit really the root of all sins?
I think not. When we focus our attention on the consumption of the forbidden fruit, we lose sight of what’s of greater importance hidden behind God’s plan for its existence.
Do not eat or do not touch?
If we were to focus our attention on the fruit, we will chance upon some inconsistencies in the scriptures. God clearly instructed Adam not to eat of the fruit (Genesis 2:17). But over time, we learn that Adam instructed Eve not to eat nor touch (Genesis 3:3). Say for example, if the sin is in the action, then can we say that Adam has sinned since he lied to Eve telling her that touching the fruit will lead to death?
But sin is not simply the action. Sin is a combination of acts and intent.
Take for example murder. If someone kills somebody intentionally, the Bible teaches us that they should be put to death. However, if they killed someone accidentally – in other words, they didn’t intend to kill others but it was purely an accident – they’re free to flee to a city of refuge (ref: Exodus 21:12-14).
In context, Adam wanted to honor God by keeping to His command of “do not eat”. He has absolutely no intention to sin against God. Therefore, Adam has not sinned when he told Eve not to eat nor touch the fruit.
Sin is in the mind.
I think when we take a step back and look at the fall, we will realize that the sin that Adam and Eve have committed was rooted in the mind. This sin was committed out of clear defiance to God.
Fast forward to the New Testament. Jesus taught us that “whoever who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28, ESV). What Jesus is teaching here is that the mere thought of sin is as good as the act itself. This is a recurring theme in Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5. Talk about being angry with someone being as good as killing him (Matthew 5:21-22).
Doing good when God never called you is sin as well.
The Bible tells us that there’s a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Likewise for God’s plans. There’s a method in His plan for the world. It is therefore for Him to tell us what’s required of us to fulfill His plan in any given space and time.
James gave us a pretty good definition of sin. To him, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin”. (James 4:17, ESV). From this, I think we can imply that even if we know what is the right thing to do but do not do it immediately (or we do it after God’s appointed time), we have sinned.
Sin is not acknowledging God for who He is.
Therefore with all that’s said, we can conclude that sin is not the act, neither is it about doing good or bad. It is not acknowledging God for who He is. It is the failure to acknowledge the sovereign attributes of God and the failure to surrender our lives to Him.
When Eve took the fruit in her hands after being tempted by the serpent, she saw that it was good for food and a delight to the eyes. She preferred self-attained wisdom and self-fulfillment to seeking God. When she chuck God aside and thought about the apparent “goodness” of the fruits, sin entered.
To sum this all up, I think it’s important to remember that sin begins in the heart. Our theology of God may also cause certain sins to grow within our hearts and minds. If left unattended, it may lead to dire consequences.
And in our day and age, we are to always be alert. The choice of whether or not to obey God is always placed before ourselves. We are still facing the struggles Adam and Eve faced in the garden of Eden. The only difference is that we know that Jesus Christ has atoned for our sins and guilts. It’s now up to us to choose whether or not to submit ourselves to God.