Sermons on Genesis | The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil | Genesis 2:15-17

tree of the knowledge of good and evil

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:15-17)

When I was a kid, Mom and Dad left us three boys with Nannie and Papaw, my mom’s parents, and went Christmas shopping. We boys misbehaved something awful. I don’t remember what we did, but I remember Nannie told Mom and Dad how we three had acted. On the way home, Mom read us boys the riot act—and that is one of my mom’s greatest talents. Mom and Dad gave us three boys a choice—they could take us home and give us a spanking or they could call Santa Claus and tell him how we had acted.

You must understand that I’m the eldest of us three boys, and, at that time, I knew some truths about Santa that my two younger brothers did not know. Aaron and Kyle begged for Mom and Dad to spank them and be done with it. I, on the other hand, begged Mom and Dad to call Santa—at my age and maturity, that was going to be the far superior choice.

I don’t remember what happened when we got home—I strongly suspect Mom and Dad spanked us. Regardless of what my parents ultimately did, they gave us boys a choice.

You all have made a million choices through the years—where you’d go to college, what your major would be, whom you would marry, when you’d have children, what house to buy, what car you’d drive, where you’d work, and on and on.

We have been able to make those choices because “God created us with freewill.” Some decisions, of course, greatly affect us; the choice of college, spouse, career, and children impact our entire time in this life. Yet, some decisions affect us for an eternity yet to come. God created Adam and Eve with free will and they chose wrongly.

Scripture (Genesis 2:15-17)

In Genesis 1, the author of Genesis gave an overview of God’s creation of the Cosmos. Beginning at Genesis 2:4, the author got very specific about the creation of man. As we learn details about Adam and Eve’s creation, we discover, too, truths about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. I want us to think about that tree so that we might more fully appreciate the truth: “God created us with freewill.”

After God formed man from the dust of the ground and gave him life (Gen 2:7), the Lord took Adam and placed him in a garden he had planted (Gen 2:8). The Lord had put various trees with good fruit in the garden, and “[i]n the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2:9). As its name implies, the tree of life would have allowed Adam to live forever (Gen 3:22). But the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would lead to death: God told Adam, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Gen 2:16–17).

As I’ve read this narrative, there are two truths which stick out to me which demonstrate that “God created us with freewill.” I don’t want to get into too much speculation, but here’s what I’m noticing:

  • The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil were both in the middle of the garden. In other words, when Adam went to eat the fruit which would allow him to live, he would be right at the tree which would lead to death.
  • Adam was “to work [the garden] and take care of it” (Gen 2:15). The only conclusion I can reach is that Adam had to take care of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Yeah, I know that Eve said that God had commanded it not to be touched (Gen 3:3), but as I noted before, we have no record of God’s saying that.

Thus, Adam could not escape the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was with him every day. Why would God do such a thing? I believe it all goes back to an important theological truth: “God created us with freewill.”

God wants us to serve him, but he wishes that we do so freely, under no compulsion or coercion. As the Israelites prepared to enter the Promised Land, Moses told them, “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life” (Deut 30:19). Joshua said to his fellow Israelites, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Jos 24:15).


God still gives us a choice today, for “he created us with freewill.” How should we respond to that freewill? I could go a million different directions, but I simply want to go in one.

Before you do anything, think about the consequences of what you are about to do.

Consider for moment:

  • What if Eve had stopped to consider all the pain and suffering she would bring into the world by choosing the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?
  • What if Ahab and Jezebel had considered that taking Naboth’s vineyard would cost them their lives?
  • What if Judas had stopped to count of the high cost of guilt before he betrayed Jesus?
  • If Elymas had considered his sight, would he still have sought to prevent the proconsul Sergius Paulus from believing the truth?

What if we stopped to consider the consequences of the choices before us? How might we choose differently?

If I can ever help you, let me know.

This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.

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