The Temptation of Secret Knowledge

“You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” – Genesis 3:4-5

We are all familiar with this scene. Satan, in the form of a serpent, tempts Eve to partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was, ultimately, a temptation of secret knowledge.

There are certain things in life that are evil for us to know. We may not like this idea because we don’t like to be kept in the dark. We feel that if we are kept ignorant that we might be taken advantage of, or might be missing out on something. We hate it when people whisper in front of us, for example, and we are all too eager to listen in on the latest gossip.

God isn’t against knowledge. There are many things that God has provided for us to learn and know. Adam and Eve had an unlimited amount of things that they could have learned and experienced that were not forbidden. And really, there was only one thing that God forbade them to know–the knowledge of good and evil. The knowledge of everything else was freely available to them. They could have learned about plants and animals, writing, math, mechanics, electricity, computers, anything! Every bit of knowledge that is available to us today was also available for them to explore. It was only that one thing that God didn’t want them to know.

But why? Why didn’t God want them to have the knowledge of good and evil?

It’s because some things are truly known only by experiencing them. I can tell you all about ice cream, but until you try it for yourself, you’ll never really know what it tastes like. And some things are only known by comparison. Can you know light if you’ve never experienced darkness? Can you know warmth if you’ve never experienced cold? Adam and Eve lived surrounded by everything that was very good, but what is good if there’s no evil to compare it to? For this reason, Adam and Eve did not know good or evil. They would only know evil by experiencing it, and they’d only know good by comparing it to evil. God didn’t want them to know good and evil because they needed to commit an act of evil to know it. And by committing that evil, they would open the door of death.

Adam and Eve ate the fruit and gained the knowledge of good and evil, but they instantly regretted it. I’m sure they wished they could have undone what they did, but they could not. Once you have that knowledge, you can never go back. If only Adam and Eve had trusted God, they would have never gotten us into this mess.

We can all blame Adam and Eve, but we are tempted (and often succumb) just the same as they were. Satan tempts us with many things by saying, “Don’t you just want to know what it’s like?”

I’ve never been drunk before. I’ve hardly even drunk but a sip of wine or beer here and there. And to be honest, when I did try it, there wasn’t much about it that I really liked. However, every once in a while I get the thought, “I wonder what it’s like to be drunk.” Seriously. I’ve even had the thought to go to some secret place, away from everyone, out in the woods or something, and get drunk just so I could know what it’s like. (I’m laughing while I write this, but it’s all true). Thankfully, I’ve avoided this temptation, but it’s an all too common form of temptation for everyone.

Sex is a big one: “Don’t you at least want to know what it’s like before you get married?” And drugs, too: “Don’t you at least want to see what it feels like? If you don’t like it, don’t do it again.” So many sins start right like this. Satan is not going to overwhelm you with sin at first; he just wants to get you in the door. Once he gets you in and settled, then he will work you over.

But the temptation of secret knowledge doesn’t stop there. Many people become addicted to it. They want to hear the latest gossip, they want to see the newest filth, they want to explore the depths of Satan. Many people turn to the occult and to witchcraft for this very reason.

People are very proud of their knowledge. They love the idea of knowing more than the next guy, or being the first to know, or learning some new thing. It is one of the reasons that there are so many denominations of Christianity and so many cults. It usually involves some man or woman who thinks they have special knowledge or some new revelation. In their pride, they lead many astray.

We also must be careful to avoid more subtle temptations of this type. The News, for example, can become an idol for some– an addiction. It can be addicting to always be hearing what’s ‘new’ (See Acts 17:21). Many Christians spend more time reading the news than they do the Word. How sad. Is the news going to bring you life? Can the news save your soul? I don’t think so. Nothing is really new anyway. It’s just the same kind of things that have always happened regurgitated again (Ecclesiastics 1:9-10). The Word of God, however, is an infinite wealth of knowledge. You’ll never exhaust it.

We must realize that this temptation of knowledge is something we believers will face very often. We will be faced with many opportunities to gain the knowledge of things that we ought not to know. We know that God says we are better off without such knowledge, but Satan seeks to convince us that God is holding good things back. It is at these moments when we must trust in the character of God, that He is seeking our good, our best interests.

I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. – Romans 16:19

All the real treasures of knowledge dwell in Christ (Colossians 2:3). The secret knowledge that the devil offers only brings sorrow, shame, and death. Adam and Eve didn’t get anything good out of the fruit deal. They only thing they came to know was that they were naked–which represents shame. All they got was shame. They realized that Satan had deceived them; they realized that they should have listened to God. It’s the same thing we will realize if we yield to this temptation.

“Knowledge puffs up,” the Bible says, “but love edifies” (1 Corinthians 8:1). Even good and right knowledge can become a snare. We should examine our motives. Are we seeking the knowledge that we do because of love, or for pride’s sake? Are we truly seeking to build others up, or are we seeking to exalt ourselves? These are important questions to ask.

Satan continues to deceive many with the same tactics he’s used from the beginning. We must not be ignorant of his devices. 

The good news is, however, that God is merciful. Through the death of an animal, He covered Adam and Eve’s nakedness so they would not have to live in shame. In like manner, through the death and resurrection of His Son, He has provided a way for our shame to be taken away. Those who express true sorrow for their sins, and put their faith in Jesus, will be forgiven all their sins. God will cast your sins forever out of His sight, to remember them no more. He will clothe you with a robe of righteousness, paid for by His Son. Your shame will be forever taken away, never to be seen again. Amen!


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