Why do we exaggerate? Do we distort the truth because we think our stories will be more interesting? For example, we joke about the fisherman’s story of the gigantic fish that got away. The fish seems to grow each time the tale is retold.
Do we enhance our narratives so our audience will change their thoughts about someone’s character? About our character?
Reading Genesis 3:1-3, it appears that exaggeration is as old as Adam and Eve.
The serpent asked Eve a misleading question, “Did God really say ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
Instead of just saying no, Eve engaged in conversation. That may have been her first mistake. She said, “We may eat from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.” Truth mixed with untruth.
Smack dab (southern slang) in the middle of truth, Eve inserted a falsehood. She exaggerated. God never said they were not to ”touch” the tree.
Why did she add that lie? Was she repeating what Adam told her? Did Adam add the command when he shared God’s instructions with her? Did she want to add drama to the conversation? Was she so mindful of God’s command that she convinced herself that surely God did not want her to go near the tree? What was she thinking? I wish I knew.
What I do know is that misrepresenting God’s commands by making them more strict than they really are is dangerous. It misrepresents God’s character and it can drive people away from Him. It infuriated Jesus when the Pharisees burdened others with their extensive lists of rules.
Yes, legalism is truly as old as Adam and Eve.
God’s Word does not need any additions. Nor does it need editing. When Satan tempted Jesus in the desert, Jesus responded by quoting God’s Word. He did not explain what God said. He did not defend God’s Word. He just said, “It is written…” No further discussion necessary. No debate required.
Minimizing or exaggerating God’s Word to suit personal preference is also dangerous because we essentially challenge His solitary right to divine judgment. His good plans for mankind are distorted. His sovereign authority is challenged. He is on His throne…and there is not room for anyone else!
And what about God’s warning of death for disobedience? I wrestled with this for years. Adam and Eve lived in paradise. They had never witnessed death as we know it. So how did they understand the severity of the consequence? My struggle ended when I learned that scripturally, death can mean permanent separation, not cessation.
Christians understand that while the physical death of our loved ones results in separation from them, their spirit lives. We mourn the separation. It hurts. But our loved one has not stopped existing. Therefore, I see God warning Adam and Eve that disobedience would result in painful separation from Him. The beautiful relationship they enjoyed would no longer be accessible should they choose to defy Him. That’s what God’s divine judgement upon sin is…separation from Him.
The beauty of the gospel is that our loving God makes a way for us to return to intimate fellowship with Him. He does so by His grace, using the cross, the obedience of Jesus and our faith. We need not add anything else to His story!
Questions to ponder:
When have I minimized God’s Word?
When have I added my own words to His truth?