When I was growing up, every Sunday after church my family would go to lunch at a buffet. Sometimes we'd go to a Chinese buffet, sometimes to an Italian buffet, sometimes to Golden Corral. The best thing about a buffet is obvious: you get to eat as much as you want. There is an entire smorgasbord at your fingertips. (Am I the only one who thinks about the rat Templeton singing about the fair in the Charlotte's Web movie when I hear the word "smorgasbord"?)
This morning I was reading Genesis 2, and it seems like Adam had a bit of a buffet as his disposal. God places him in the Garden of Eden and says to him, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." Adam was in paradise, and he could eat just about anything he wanted. His options were practically limitless. There was only one tree he was to stay away from. It would be like God saying to me, "David, you can eat whatever you want at Golden Corral, but just don't touch the green bean casserole." I think I would be able to hand that. What's one dish when there are so many others to choose from?
But when you're told that you can't have any of the green bean casserole, that casserole starts looks awfully good. And for Adam and Eve in the garden, even though they had the rest of the trees to enjoy, even though their lives were perfect, that one tree started looking good. And in just the next chapter, we read about how they ate from that tree, introducing sin to the human race.
I've heard preachers and writers try to boil sin down to its root. What is it that exists in all sin at a foundational level? I'm not sure that there is one single answer. Many people identify pride as the root of sin, and I think this is true in many cases. C.S. Lewis called pride the complete "anti-God state of mind." But there may be other roots of sin. I think that a common one is discontentment. We become unhappy with what we have, even when we have more than we could ever need, and we sin in order to get the few things we don't have.
That's what happens with Adam and Eve. They have everything they could (or maybe should) ever want. They have a harmonious, unbroken relationship with God. They've been given the pretty awesome command to "be fruitful and multiply." And they live at the greatest buffet ever known. But still, they're not happy with all that. They desire the one thing that has been withheld from them. Their discontentment leads to their sin.
The same process runs rampant in our own day and age. Even though a person has plenty of money and don't have to worry about making ends meet, he still desires more. Even though he has a happy marriage to a beautiful woman, he looks for more. Even though he enjoys his job, he does whatever it takes to get to the next level. Discontentment drives him to engage in a continuous quest for more, even if it takes sinful means to satisfy that hunger.
If discontentment doesn't lead us to sin, it at least makes it difficult for us to enjoy life as we have it. It gets easy for us to despair because of the things we don't have rather than taking joy in what we have been blessed with.
This is a constant danger for me. My tendency is often to dwell on the things I feel my life lacks instead of appreciating what I do have. Because when I take a step back and look at my life, it is pretty great. I live 15 minutes from my favorite sports team's stadium. I have two jobs, when many people in the city are struggling to find one. I have not one, but two boxes of nutty bars in my cabinet. (Actually, it's down to one and a half now....I needed a post-dinner snack.) I'm going to a midnight showing of the Hunger Games movie in two weeks. I get to go to a school where I learn about the Bible. I'm pretty much the best looking person I know.
And yes, there are ways that I wish my life was different. I wish my beard was less wispy. I wish I had a research assistant who could help me out with the papers that I'm behind on. I wish girls wouldn't get so creeped out when I wink at them. But in light of all that I do have, these are pretty small issues.
So today, take a few minutes to think about the things in your life that are good. Have yourself a little Thanksgiving Day celebration here in March. Maybe write out some of these things in a list. It'll help us from growing discontented. Sin will look less alluring, and life will feel more joyful.
What's good about your life right now?