July 9, 2015 • Life for Leaders
But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’”
Leaders are tempted by all sorts of enticements. Some are lured into misdeeds by an inordinate desire for financial gain. Others fall into sin because of sexual temptation. Still others get carried away by their own power and self-importance, believing that they are a breed apart, above both human beings and human laws. It’s almost if they see themselves like God.
This last kind of temptation is what snagged the woman in Genesis 3. When the serpent asked if God forbade people from eating the fruit of all trees, the woman rightly said that God’s prohibition related only to one particular tree. If humans ate the fruit of that tree, they would die. The serpent contradicted the woman’s report and, indeed, God’s warning. “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3:4-5).
There it is, the temptation to be like God. In this particular case, the lure was being like God in knowledge of a particular kind, the knowledge of good and evil. No doubt the woman was tempted by the desire to know what she was not supposed to know. But the real hook, it seems to me, came in the serpent’s promise: you will be like God. Just think: you will be like God! No ignorance! No limitations! No submission to a higher authority! No need to recognize something as greater and wiser than yourself!
I doubt that you or I would say outright, “I want to be like God.” But isn’t this what snags many of us in leadership, drawing us into wrong attitudes and behaviors? Isn’t arrogance what leads to the downfall of so many in authority? Isn’t our fatal temptation related to our unwillingness to be humble, to follow the rules for ordinary mortals, to listen to the wisdom of others?
There is a sad irony in the “I can be like God” temptation. The fact is that you and I are like God because that’s how God made us. We were created in his own image and likeness. In our capacity for knowing, for relationship, and for work, we are very much like God. This likeness is a gift to be received humbly, celebrated joyfully, and stewarded faithfully. Yet, it’s something that is rightly received, celebrated, and stewarded only when we recognize that God alone is God. God alone is all knowing, all wise, always to be obeyed. When we live and lead under God’s unique authority, then we will flourish as beings created in God’s own image.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
What temptations do you find particularly hard to resist? Do you know why?
Are you ever tempted to be like God in an inappropriate way?
What helps you to resist the temptations that have power in your life?
Gracious God, thank you for making us in your image. Thank you for creating us to be like you. What an honor and a responsibility!
You know, Lord, that there are times when we want to be like you that go beyond what is right. It’s almost as if we want to be you! We want to run our own lives, to decide for ourselves what is right and wrong, and live for our own purposes and glory. Forgive us, gracious God, for the times when we give in to these temptations.
Teach us, we pray, to know how we can faithfully be like you and still worship you as the one true God. As we submit ourselves to your supreme authority and will, may we freely exercise the authority you have entrusted to us. Amen.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.