Let’s recap the puzzle pieces we have so far concerning the riddle of humanity. The first piece recognizes humanity’s creation in the image and likeness of God. The second piece identified the wholeness of spirit, soul, and body in each person. The third piece exposed humanity’s flaw as the inherent desire to go our own way and not God’s which is also called sin. The fourth piece wound through the conflict caused by these pieces. This fifth piece of the puzzle will uncover life’s harsh reality because of our sin.
There are probably as many ways to approach life as there are humans. Some will gravitate to “live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse.” Others will seek power over others in a vain attempt to control life. Some will seek significance through service. A few will seek total separation from all others. You could say that each of these has three things in common; futility, division, and death.
From the day of Adam’s sin, everyone has been subjected to a futile and sometimes even absurd existence. Consider God’s declaration of sin’s consequence to Adam in Genesis 3:17-19 “The ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.” (NLT) Whether someone is dirt poor or filthy rich the result is the same. So what’s the point of life?
Also from the beginning, another consequence of sin emerged. Division, jealousy, and competition grew quickly in the Genisis account of our earliest days. Genesis 4:1-16 recounts the story of Cain and Abel. What followed was a sibling rivalry so intense it ended with Cain murdering Abel. Division and separation are also hallmarks of sin. Have you noticed that the more humanity grows the more it seems to divide? We seem to easily fall into camps of nations, race, politics, sports teams, tribes, clans, family, denominations, affiliations, and preferences. Sometimes killing each other, sometimes putting others down to raise ourselves up. This division is often a vain attempt to fight the futility of life through being a part of something larger than ourselves.
Lastly, the ultimate end of every human life is death. The Bible plainly says that death is the direct result of sin, “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23a, NLT) It’s something we’re aware of but not something we dwell on until death strikes someone close. And yet its inevitability lurks in the background as we strive to create some kind of lasting legacy.
Recalling that moment in Eden, it may seem that God was wrong and the serpent right in the garden. Adam and Eve did not die when they took that first bite. Or did they? In that instant when sin entered, Adam and Eve became separated from God. You could say their spirit died which was followed later by their physical deaths.
Death always involves separation. Our anger at someone’s choices might lead us to say “you’re dead to me.” Our sin separates us from God. Like Adam and Eve, we are spiritually dead long before we are physically dead. Whether we are born spiritually dead or become that way when we first sin is a debatable point – either way the result is the same. As Paul said, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23, NASB95)
Humanity’s best solution to the problems of futility, division, and death can be summed up as “eat, drink, and be merry.” A conclusion also reached by the writer of Ecclesiastics, a book of wisdom also in the Bible. The teacher concludes, “So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 8:15, NLT) But then we encounter something Jesus said on the same topic, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10, NLT) Humanity’s best solution is to enjoy life while we have it with all its futility, meaninglessness, and absurdity. God, however, has another solution which turns everything around.