The Knowledge of Good

Posted on May 7, 2010

The knowledge of good has done more to separate people from God than the knowledge of evil.  This is what Rick Joyner says in his amazing book, “There were Two Trees in the Garden”.  I couldn’t agree more.  The knowledge of evil is easily identifiable and therefore more easily resisted.  Ironically it is often the knowledge of good that we use to resist or avoid that other branch.

Perhaps even more seductive is that the knowledge of good “is pleasing to the eyes and appears desirable for gaining wisdom”.  The problem is that the knowledge of good appears…well…good. We always have to remember that  the distinction between the two trees is their source.  By it’s very nature the knowledge of good is initiated and completed solely from a human.  The tree of life originates from and returns to God Himself.  So even good that originates from man alone is good, but based on it’s root system it cannot create life.  You cannot fill an empty gas tank by siphoning it’s contents and returning them to the tank.  Emptiness is empty.

The more good we know, the more tempted we are to produce it on our own. Tending to this living conversation with God can be difficult.  He is demanding (meaning He will not settle for less than the very best for us). He is unpredictable (meaning His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways). He won’t leave us alone (meaning He is engaged even when we would prefer to disengage).  And the list could go on.  So think through a day with me.

We know God wants us to commune with Him, and certainly people in our lives expect a certain amount of Godly behavior from us.  So we wake up in the morning and it is tempting to produce a “quiet time”.  You know, some kind of structured time where we go through a variety of exercises which may or may not actually include communing with the Living God.  At least we can convince others (or perhaps ourselves) that we have done the good that God wants. It started with me (I knew I should do it, and it seemed desirable to produce wisdom) it was empowered by me (Will power wins again).  I learned some good knowledge (need I say more?) and it ends with me (I must now apply what I learned and have a better day…).  And herein lies the danger; I now begin my day believing I have “met with God” and so I go on as if my tank is full, when it may not be.  I’ve missed a chance to be real with God and acknowledge what I need from Him today.  The knowledge of good has successfully separated me from partaking of the more sustaining fruit from the tree of life.

Now I have a class to teach, a ministry to perform, a worship set to lead, and I apply all the good that I know.  I know that God wants me to do this, so I begin to produce some version of what I think He wants.  I call on all my knowledge of good, and organize things just the way God did it last time.  He ought to like that don’t you think?  He did last week!  In fact last week, He initiated it.

In many cases last weeks true experience can be this weeks knowledge of good.

Sometimes when our profession is ministry it practically screams at us to know good and produce a lot of it.  It starts with us, and it returns to us (“you did a really great job with that class”…”thanks”).  And of course we must help others learn to do the same.  So now “discipleship”  (another “good” thing that we should do) becomes us passing on to others our strategies for the good that we know to produce.  I’ve missed a chance to show others that God is interested in a real dialogue…not a repetition of one we have had before, but a fresh conversation between a Father and a son.

Perhaps one of the most deadly places that our knowledge of good separates us from God is in relationships. We see someone coming our way and evaluate who they are and what they may think of us.  Here comes the preacher, so we smile (the Joy of the Lord is our strength you know!) and tell him ” we are blessed”. (because we are supposed to be, so we dare not acknowledge if we are not) We smile and mask our pain with some piece of religious trivia, hoping our knowledge of good can get us through this exchange without our weaknesses being exposed.  We finish and walk away, already beginning to drop our knowledge of who we should be and lamenting who we believe we really are.  The tragedy is that we missed one more opportunity to really share who we really are with God and another potentially caring human being.

The face, the turn of phrase, the slightly too quick answer, that avoids really revealing my heart, all these are good things we learn to do because it is pleasing to the eye and seems desirable for gaining wisdom…and we miss out on the chance to drop all we know and simply be real...and receive life.  I hate that tree, I wish it didn’t taste so good.


  • Jen wells

    I love this. So hard to wrap our “good” minds around. I hate it too. I never thought of the good in the tree of good and evil. Thank you for posting.

  • Jean Littlefield

    I really, really don’t want to swing from the branches of “that tree” any longer…Just so want to rest with Poppa under the shade of His tree!!!!!

  • Carol Schluter

    Reading this has left me reflecting on the many conversations I have had with my son, Alex. He is the “realist” person I know. He is gracious enough to be “good” while keeping up appearances for the family name. But that is a stressful way to live. I prefer his honesty. I can not imagine anything he could do that would seperate my love for him. I am sure God feels the same toward His children. Free to be me in Christ! Now you’re talking! God loves His children just as they are – “real” not “good”. I am a school teacher. So, you know, “good” is just a “B” anyway. Why try so hard to be a “B”? Just be a “U” – ewe – a lamb that is led by the Shepherd! Thanks Bob, good lesson 🙂

  • Amy

    Doug and I are always talking about how your posts hurt our brains(cause it of course goes against any kind of thought process we were taught). This one really stung. Thanks. 🙂

  • Babs

    “The more good we know, the more tempted we are to produce it on our own.”

    The more I learn about the this tree, the more I am aware of my relationship to it…the harder I find myself trying to stay out it, not realizing that “my effort” is the very reason I’m still in it.

    “He won’t leave us alone (meaning He is engaged even when we would prefer to disengage).”

    This quote is so different from the one above, but I was so drawn to it. Why? Because it turned a light bulb on for me in myself. When I disengage, I tend to live in the lie that so has God. This is a “Duh” kind of statement you made – meaning it should be evidently clear – but reading it for myself was like hearing it in my heart for the first time.