Uncovering Satan’s Three Lies
by Fr. Stephen Hellman –Anybody here play poker? Here’s a great quote I came across last week:
“If you’ve been playing poker for half an hour and you still don’t know who the patsy is, you’re the patsy.”
The more I think about it, the more I’m thinking… maybe that explains why I never win at poker.
Sometimes people are targeted… Sometimes they are targeted fairly by others when they play games, and sometimes they are targeted unfairly by con men.
And that’s what we see in the account of Adam and Eve. The biggest con man of all, the devil, Satan, targeted Adam and Eve.
He lied to them and they accepted his lie and hence we heard the story of … the Fall.
The Church does not claim that there were two historical persons named Adam and Eve, but it is a tenet of our faith that humanity can trace its lineage back to one pair of human beings who were our First Parents, and that through their act of disobedience sin entered the world.
And by the way, science bears out this ancient teaching that we had one pair of first parents: it is pretty well established that the human race is truly one human family and that the DNA of every human person does lead back to the union of one man and one woman, a single pair of human beings… our two “first parents”.
Isn’t that funny how the world always eventually catches up to the teachings of the Church?
The devil and targeting today.
You know, many people hear the scripture that we heard and they actually kind of believe that what happened is that Adam and Eve were kind of in a vague pre-moral state, and that it was only after they ate the apple, after they had committed the first sin, that they came to recognize the difference between right and wrong, good and evil…
But this just shows that many of us even today fail to clearly see what the devil had done. In point of fact, everything that Satan said to Adam and Eve was a lie.
And whether we believe this account to be literal or not, it is valuable to treat the story as literal when analyzing its parts due to the important truths that it conveys. This is not fundamentalism, this is valuable biblical exploration, for God’s Word has much to say to us.
So, let’s look at the account…
Satan got Adam and Eve to question what God had told them… God told them them they would die if they ate of the tree, and the devil told them that they would not die.
In fact, God was correct. Through their disobedience they did die — through the disobedience of our First Parents sin and death entered the world.
In the intimacy of their original state of Holiness, Adam and Eve had been destined to live forever with God in Paradise. But once they disobeyed God, they were expelled from Paradise and condemned to eventual death. This is described as the loss of their natural integrity.
And worse than that, their sin killed their perfect connection with God, destroying the state of their harmony within themselves, and bringing the stain of Original Sin to all of humankind… And this is described as their loss of sanctifying grace.
Later in the Genesis narrative, if you look carefully, you will see that there are the elements of Confession, where Adam and Eve admit to God what they’ve done.
And besides his lying to Adam and Eve about death, the devil told them two other things: if they ate of the tree they would be like gods, and they would know what is good and what is evil.
Now here’s the interesting trick the devil played on them, and if you remember nothing else today remember this: everything the devil said was a lie.
The fact is, Adam and Eve were already like God, and they already knew what was good and what was evil.
There was nothing new that came to them through the devil. What the devil succeeded in doing was make them question God and question themselves.
The devil never adds anything new. That’s because the devil never has anything of his own to work with. All the devil can work with is reality, which is created by God and belongs to God. So, the devil has to take the stuff of reality and twist it to attempt to trick us into making decisions that turn us away from reality and against God.
How were Adam and Eve already like God?
Well, in Paradise they were in the image and the likeness of God. Adam and Eve were in God’s image and likeness in their ability to feel, to love, to reason, and to know God in their hearts, and especially in the perfect intimacy they shared with Him and with one another.
The Fall took away their perfect intimacy, and the effect was that human beings became corrupted. And, while the ability to be the image of God remained, it no longer was clear and beautiful but was forever stained by sin…
The human intellect was darkened, the human will weakened, and from that moment forward, the human being, having lost his inner harmony, became separated from God and at war within himself…
So, Original Sin degrades the ability of men and women to have the true and full intimacy with God and with one another that they have been created for.
Let me say that again…Original Sin degrades the ability of men and women to have the true and full intimacy with God and with one another that they have been created for.
Adam and Eve had been like God already but the devil deceived them into not recognizing what they had, and so they threw it all away.
And what else? The devil told them also that they would learn the difference between good and evil.
But the thing is, Adam and Eve already knew the difference between good and evil! God had already told them what was good and what was evil: it was good to obey God, and it was evil to disobey God and the one rule He had established for their happiness… to not eat of the tree.
So they already knew right from wrong… they knew what was good and what was evil, for God had told them.
So, in summary, the devil somehow deceived our First Parents into believing:
* that God had not told them the truth,
* that they could receive a greater divine life than they already had,
* and that the fruit of the tree would give them a knowledge that they did not already possess.
And if you look at the scripture passage, you see in Eve’s action of eating the apple that actually the act itself was based on three reasons.
“The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.
So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”
So, three lies from the devil, and a three-fold action on the part of the woman followed by the man, and thus occurs the Fall of the human race and all of creation along with it.
The Three Sins of Eve
This action of Eve is understood as expressing what the Jews called the three-fold concupiscence, which consisted of: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and pride of life.
Today we call these three lust, greed, and pride — or maybe sensuality, vanity, and pride are good terms — and all the sins of humanity fall under one of these three categories.
… and you know, some people have trouble with this whole concept of Original Sin, but, actually, isn’t sin the one indisputable fact? Consider G.K. Chesterton’s famous observation: “[it] is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.”
Now, I know this is a long homily today, but please bear with me, this is important… just a little more.
— let’s look briefly at today’s gospel where Jesus is tempted by Satan in the desert. Anything interesting there?
Jesus encountered in the desert the same three temptations to which Eve succumbed –
…lust of the flesh in the temptation to turn the stone into bread,
…lust of the eyes in the temptation to possess kingdoms of the world, and
…pride of life in the temptation to prove that he is the Messiah by throwing himself down from the temple.
So, we see in these powerful readings today that where Adam and Eve fell to sin, Jesus withstood the universal temptations of lust, greed and pride…
Jesus is showing at the beginning of his public ministry that where Adam fell, he will succeed.
Jesus thus is the New Adam, the one who brings the New Creation, restoring what our First Parents lost.
And so, Holy Mother Church gives us these readings this First Sunday of Lent because during Lent, we focus on coming to Christ to seek restoration of what has been lost in our own lives.
What needs restoring in our lives?
With Jesus’ help and the three practices of fasting, good works and prayer which are our weapons against sin and temptation, we can ask God for the restoration we need.
May Lent bring us special blessings this year.
With God’s help, let us undo the work of the con artist, let us engage in the difficult work of rooting out any lies that we’ve allowed ourselves to believe, that all of us in our parish community may grow in holiness in these coming days. Amen.