First Comes Doubt, Then Comes Fear
Temptation rarely seems dangerous. Rather, it comes to us in the form of something appealing.
Let’s face it, though, do we really need to be told to act in our own best interest? Usually, the
wrong thing to do has the better advertising. It distracts us from our purpose… to be the best
version of ourselves. The complexities of life can seem overwhelming. Our modern temptations
come with excellent marketing but they really aren’t much different from those our earliest
We all know the Creation Story in the Bible and our beginning with Adam and Eve. They were
placed in the Garden of Eden by God with the instruction to cultivate and care for it. They have
full freedom except for one thing… they are not to mess with the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge
of Good and Evil. This was the only law and outside of the law, there is no sin (Rom 4:14-15).
They were naked and felt no shame (Gen 2:25). The only law was obedience to this one
command and outside of that was absolute liberty.
Why this law? What’s so bad about knowledge that God would keep them from the tree that
would make them wise? Parents can agree that there is some knowledge that is best left for
maturity. Do we want our children to probe the complexities of adult relationships at an early
age or do we provide fairy tales and happy thoughts while they are young? There is nothing
wrong with human interactions… but there is a time and place for appropriate interactions. This
could be the case with our first parents. It’s not that God wanted them ignorant but that He
wanted them to trust Him as children (Matt 18:3). Once they knew of good and evil, they could
make choices for both (Deut 11:26)… and that’s an edge that’s easy to fall over. It was for their
The Devil enters into this nursery with harmful intent. He knows what God has commanded
them and he wants them to disobey as he did. Does he outright tell them what to do? No. He
introduces doubt where there was trust, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the
trees in the garden’?” From that simple question, he laid a trap of logic… why should one tree
be any different from any other? If you can eat from all trees but one, what is different about
that one? Why is God such a meany? Eve answers that it is only the one tree and they would
die if they eat from it or even touch it. He’s ready to spring his trap, “You certainly will not die!
God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who
know good and evil.” The one who desired to be God himself and was thrown out of Heaven for
his sinful pride has now introduced doubt into God’s creation with the promise of godhood for
themselves. This is temptation, indeed! Do they obey God or become like Him?
Eve was tempted in all ways. She had a lust of the flesh in noting that the fruit was good for
food. She had a lust of the eyes in seeing how it was pleasing in appearance. She had the pride
of life in desiring to gain wisdom. Where God had commanded, the Devil had introduced doubt.
Could they trust what they were told or was God simply denying them something good for
them? How many times do we rationalize our own decisions the same way? We feel that
hunger in our bellies. We want what is beautiful to behold. If we don’t experience this pleasure,
we might miss out on the experience! We fail in the same ways our first parents did… for the
same reasons… and with the same results.
Immediately after taking the fruit, their eyes were opened (Adam was with her) and they
realized they were naked. It’s that the same feeling we feel after some illicit pleasure. Did
anyone see us? Can anyone know? We feel naked and exposed in our sinfulness. And God calls
out to us in our conscience as He called out for Adam in the Garden, “Where are you?” Does He
not know? Of course, He knows… He calls us to stand before Him in our nakedness and admit
our guilt. Adam was naked in the flesh before but now his nakedness is of the soul. God hasn’t
moved away from Adam. Adam has distanced himself from God in disobedience. We don’t
handle this now any better than our first parents as Adam doubles down on his problems. In
Adam’s denial, he is also confessing… “I was afraid because I was naked.” Was he really afraid
of God or was it that he feared what he himself had done? He was naked in his sin. He feared
what came next. He feared the punishment he knew he deserved.
God confronts Adam with his guilt, “Have you eaten from the tree of which I had forbidden you
to eat?” When we face our crime directly, we have a choice to make… be honest or seek a
deflection. Adam chose the latter and put it right back on God, “The woman whom YOU PUT
HERE WITH ME…”. Oh… ok. It’s God’s fault. If He hadn’t given me a loving companion, this
never would have happened. God’s blessings are never the cause of our sin (James 1:13). Our
sin comes from our fear… if I don’t do this now, I may never get the chance!
The narrative of the story is common to us today. When we face temptation, it begins with
doubt… eating my coworker’s donut won’t hurt, will it? We rationalize that donuts taste good,
they’re pretty, and I may not have the opportunity later so I should seize it now! Does it matter
to the story whether we’re talking about fruit, donuts, violence, or infidelity? All are forbidden
fruits in some way and all sin progresses similarly. When our conscience calls us to account, we
lie to ourselves, “it was just one time”… “it isn’t a big deal”… “everyone does it”… until we are
called out for it. “Did you take my donut?” Do we apologize or deflect? We tend to deflect, “Oh,
that was yours? Oops. You should have labeled it better.” It’s your fault.
God doesn’t make things complicated. We do. In the beginning, He gave our first parents a
simple instruction. They had full freedom except for one clearly defined prohibition. Today, we
also have clear instructions. The whole of the Law is encapsulated in two things: Love God with
our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. When we
allow doubt and fear to control our lives, we find ourselves restrained and unable to love. Love
is the antidote to fear. In love, we have the freedom to be the best version of ourselves.
The Devil was a liar and a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). Adam and Eve did die and
from the moment they disobeyed God. In their acquiescence to temptation, they doubted God
and His command. In disobedience, they sinned. In sin, it brought death by severing God’s
covenant relationship with them (James 1:14-15). It lead to physical death in the mercy of God.
God, as the author of life, knows us better than we know ourselves. What He tells us is true and
beyond doubt. We should focus our attention on His Will and Word in prayer, deny our lustful
flesh in fasting, and be attentive to the needs of others in almsgiving of our time, talents, and
treasures. In doing so, we will become the masters of temptation and live love, not fear.