July 10, 2015 • Life for Leaders
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.”
In one of the classic scenes from Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist, the misfortunate young orphan, Oliver, is stuck in a workhouse, laboring for long hours and getting barely enough gruel to keep himself alive. When he and his fellow laborers draw lots to see who should try to get some extra food, Oliver loses. He approaches the overbearing and overweight master, Mr. Bumble, with a humble request, “Please, sir, I want some more.” This greatly perturbs Mr. Bumble and the leaders of the workhouse, who sell Oliver into apprenticeship to get rid of the troublemaker.
Oliver had a good reason for wanting more, of course, since he and his chums were almost starving. But the desire for more grows in the hearts of those of us who have plenty as well. In fact, this desire often leads us off track in our lives and leadership, as we eagerly seek for more when we already have all we need.
Consider the case of the woman in the Garden of Eden. After the serpent promises that eating of the forbidden fruit will allow her to be “like God, knowing good and evil,” the story continues: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate” (3:6).
We’ll consider the last of the three qualities of the tree (wisdom) in tomorrow’s devotion. For now, I want to focus our attention on the first two aspects of the temptation that led to the first sin. The woman saw that the tree, which God had said should be avoided on pain of death, was “good for food” and “a delight to the eyes.” But of course it was! That’s exactly what we learned in Genesis 2:9 about the trees God had created. They were “pleasant to the sight and good for food.” So, the garden was full of such beautiful and fruitful trees. God had provided not just enough, but much more than enough. The woman did not need the forbidden fruit because she, like poor Oliver Twist, was starving. Nor did she need to gaze on the beauty of the banned tree because there were lots of others to enjoy. Yet, she was drawn to that particular tree and its particular fruit because she wanted more.
Can you relate to this, at least a little? Those of us in positions of leadership are often snagged by a desire for more that exceeds the bounds of need, enjoyment, and even legality. We are given authority in our work; but, rather than being satisfied, we long for more power. We are paid well, but we want more money to buy more things, have more security, and feel better about our success. We are blessed with a loving spouse, but seek more attention that often leads to illicit relationships. We are well regarded among our peers, but want more fame and influence. We want more, not because we’re lacking anything essential, but because we haven’t learned how to be satisfied with what God has generously given to us.
As I reflect on this passage, I’m reminded of a line from Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “I have learned to be content with whatever I have” (Phil 4:11). Now that’s something I’d like to be able to say. How about you?
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Are you ever tempted to sin because you want more of something you don’t need? What is the “more” that can grab onto your heart?
What helps you say “no” to the desire for the unnecessary more?
What helps you be content with what you have?
Gracious God, first, we thank you for all that you have given us, grace upon grace, blessings upon blessings. Thank you most of all for the gift of eternal life, life with you, for you, and in you, now and forever.
Yet, we confess that often we are not content with your gifts. We see what we don’t have and want more. We see what others have and want still more. We are not content and we’re certainly not grateful. We end up pursuing that which we don’t need, often choosing to sin both in motivation and in action. Forgive us, Lord. Help us to be content with you and your generous gifts.
Finally, we’re reminded today to pray for those who do not have even enough, for millions who are lacking food and shelter, for those who don’t have freedom or opportunity. We pray for those who are out of work or don’t have much hope of finding decent work. We lift before you the lonely and the oppressed. Meet their needs, we pray. And help us to learn to share generously with others what you have given to us. May we also use the gifts and opportunities you have given us to help shape a more just world. To you be the glory. 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.