17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 “Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
19 “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”
In Nigeria in recent years, Christian churches have sprung up in greater numbers than schools, medical clinics and banks combined. Before we all jump for joy at the growing numbers of the body of Christ, we should know that many of these churches in poverty-stricken African countries advertise greater riches and financial prosperity through Christ. The congregations are growing because they promise a better life now, and in order to bolster their reputations as places of spiritual power–and line their own coffers–many of these same churches are falsely accusing children of witchcraft when prosperity doesn’t come right away. In the past month in Nigeria alone, three children from Christian families were killed for “witchcraft” and three more were burned alive. The overall numbers from the past decade make the Salem witchcraft trials look like a walk in the park. And nearly all were children.
The problem in Nigeria and other poor nations is that people are looking for a scapegoat, a reason why things aren’t turning around when people are working hard and praying. In Africa the result is that people see evil spirits behind every large and small difficulty in their lives, and thousands of innocents are targeted for no reason. We like to think that such an attitude is found only in “backward” regions of the world, that here in the “enlightened” or “civilized” West, we don’t fall for the belief that evil spirits are behind every trouble in our lives. But I am certain there are a good percentage of folks here in America who believe such things. Granted, in America people who believe in evil spirits don’t go around accusing their own children of witchcraft and allowing pastors to burn them in the streets. Then again, without discernment, a belief in evil spirits can become distorted, leading one to believe that every trial or trouble, great or small, is a result of demonic attack. The Bible, however, does not teach that.
One theme that does occur again and again in the Bible is that we reap what we sow. And as we see in today’s passage, all of humanity continues to reap what Adam has sown. Yes, Satan was present in the Garden and tempted Adam and Eve, and they made their choice to disobey God’s explicit commandment. But the curse upon Adam and his descendants was NOT created by the devil, it was created by GOD. The toil, the sweat, the thorns, the thistles were all put in place by God Himself as the consequence of Adam’s sin.
Since we know the earth itself was cursed because of Adam, we ought to expect that most (but not all) of the troubles of our lives are a direct result of that. Since the world was broken by sin, many of our problems just happen of their own accord, without any prompting from Satan or his minions. Worse yet, since humanity is prone to sin, we reap the consequences of our own and others’ sinfulness. In a broken world, ruin and woe will be the natural result of many human activities. The current worldwide financial crisis is plain proof of how we all are facing the consequences of others’ actions, and we don’t need to point the finger at Satan when there are hundreds of wealthy financial managers living off of our hard-earned money.
Before we go seeing evil spirits behind every woe of man, let us look to God’s Word and see that the first Adam brought the consequences of sin upon the world–a curse enacted by our loving and holy God as a result of our own sinfulness and rebellion. Let us also remember that God will often challenge our faith with trials to mold and temper us to His will, to show His glory in making us better than we were before. (Romans 5:1-5) Yes, there are evil spirits afoot in the world, but the challenges of life in this broken world are plenty enough without placing the blame on others. Let us hold fast to the hope of Christ and seek the kingdom of God without persecuting others.
1 Peter 5:8-11
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Our One Holy Father, we praise You for Your mercy, in that You chose to offer us salvation rather than destroying the world again. Teach us discernment, Lord God, so that we know truth from evil, man from spirit, and righteousness from sin. Help us to resist the devil, and shield us from our enemies. Mostly, precious Lord, mold us and shape us to be holy like You. Amen.