What is the true path toward living a giving way of life? And what are the benefits of doing so?
We here at Tomorrow’s World believe there are ultimately just two ways of life. One way produces good results. The other brings heartache, suffering, and death. Man was given this choice at the very beginning, as recounted in the book of Genesis. God placed two trees in the garden. One was the Tree of Life, but God told Adam that he was forbidden to eat the fruit of the other—the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
The first tree symbolizes the choice to trust in God and His law. The second tree symbolizes the choice to reject God and take upon oneself the determination of what is good and what is evil. As any student of the Bible knows, Adam chose to trust himself, and life has gone badly ever since, with mankind collectively choosing to follow the same path.
God was not ambiguous when He declared to ancient Israel that there are two opposing ways of life. Through His servant Moses, He pointed out clearly the results that would come from the Israelites’ individual and national choices: “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess” (Deuteronomy 30:15–16).
We cannot separate obedience or disobedience to God from the results that will play out in our lives. God pointed out that the outcome would not be good if they chose to worship other gods. “But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish” (vv. 17–18).
Most professing Christians would argue that they do not worship other gods, but are we not as guilty as Adam and Eve? Did they not, in effect, try to make themselves gods? Remember the serpent’s message to Eve: “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing [or deciding] good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). They said by their actions, “God, we know better than You!”
For every human being, the choice and result are exactly as God declared to Israel: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19). History shows the result of the wrong choice.
The book of Judges reminds us of what happens when every man is left to himself to decide. There we find cruelty and barbarous behaviors of all sorts. It is no accident that the final verse in Judges leaves us with this lesson: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). They did so despite God’s warning against that very thing: “You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes” (Deuteronomy 12:8).
Another way to describe these divergent paths is with two little words—give and get. Choosing God’s way, the right tree, is to choose a life of outgoing concern for others. It is the way of helping, caring, and sharing—in short, the way of love.
We see the alternate path taken by Cain, who murdered his brother Abel. The account in Genesis 4 is much abbreviated and we must look elsewhere to grasp the entire picture. The New Testament tells us, “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4).
The way of give is the way of love. As the Apostle John tells us, “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:11–12).
And notice this passage from Jude: “Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah” (Jude 1:11). It did not end well for any of those three!
After Cain murdered his brother, God asked about Abel’s whereabouts, and Cain responded, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). The rest of the Bible answers that question: Yes, we are to be our brother’s keeper! We are to care about the well-being of all those around us (Philippians 2:3–9).
The way of give appears counterintuitive to our human nature. As Christians, we may see ourselves as being above selfishness—but are we? Do we truly believe and demonstrate that belief by all our actions, in the words of the Apostle Paul? “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35). Consider this instruction from Jesus:
Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:12–14).
The way of give is the way of outgoing concern, of thinking about the needs of others. Yes, we have our own needs, and God does not expect us to neglect them, but most of us prioritize our personal needs quite well. It is compassion for others that we often find lacking. Providing for the needs of others, when they need that care, is rarely convenient. It is easy to think of ourselves as caring, as being selfless, but in practice, we often come up short.
From the beginning, God gave us a choice: choose His way, against the advice of our carnal human minds, or choose the way that comes most naturally but ends in pain, suffering, and death (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25).
Another example is that of Moses. He had everything a prosperous Egypt could give. He knew what it was like to be surrounded by servants providing him the best food, comfort, and entertainment.
Yet he saw beyond the here and now, and chose that better way that would lead to greater riches in the end. “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24–26).
The choice between the two trees—between give and get, between being our brother’s keeper or not—is a theme throughout Scripture. Yes, there is a reward for us, but it comes from first giving of ourselves. We must choose between two paths of life. And, every day, we make that choice in how we obey God and care for those around us. This is the grand lesson God wants us to learn in this life. If we choose wisely, we will share eternity with others who have made that choice, born into a kingdom of peace and joy with God our Father and Jesus Christ His Son. That is the message of Tomorrow’s World.