"Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made" - Genesis 3:1-7
All is well in the Garden of Eden. We are told that paradise is found there and the happy couple have all they need for a fulfilling life. We are told that God planted trees and plants for food; the garden even had a river running through it. We are told that everything was pleasant and perfect. And the man and the woman experienced great joy and were naked and unashamed of their nakedness. And the words "thank you" abounded to God and the grateful couple tended God's garden with care.
But then the serpent entered the scene and told the couple they had no reason to be so happy. "You don't have everything you need! There is that tree over there." And then he introduced two words into the vocabulary of humanity . . . "mine" and "more." And the couple became disenchanted with God because the Creator had required them to take care of what was created. And they pondered and concluded that if it were their property they could do anything they wanted to do with the garden. "Let's pretend that it is ours. We don't want it on loan! We want to own it." And subsequently their care for the property diminished. And thanks to the serpent they realized they wanted even more. They felt that they didn't really have all they needed. "We want more!" And suddenly they were ashamed and tried to "cover up" their sin – their greed - from God.
And the words still linger today in our souls: "mine" and "more." And our stewardship of God's property is again of less concern to us. And through all sorts of media we hear: "You need more to be happy and fulfilled!" And we listen again to the serpent and our spirit of thanksgiving is silenced and our complaints about not having enough increase.
Let us take an accounting of all that we have received from God and give thanks. And let us take better care of the property that God has loaned to us. Only then can we silence the serpent's whispered words.
God of all creation, we thank you for your generosity to us in loaning us such a beautiful garden. Give us joy in tending it! Amen.
Robert Naylor is the author of What Church Leaders Really Need to Know: A Practical, How-to Guide, coming out this month from The Pilgrim Press. He is a United Church of Christ minister and lead consultant for In Church Imaging, a leadership training and planning resource for clergy and local churches.