t first everybody helped everybody else: Lucifer always helped Gabriel to win. Gabriel, on the other hand, always wanted Lucifer to win. Except that they had never heard of winning.
They had heard of the law of life, and understood how it worked, because Jesus, their source, model, and inspiration, had explained it to and illustrated it all for them. It worked by giving. Everything was His, they knew, but He was perpetually sharing. Not simply because He was the source and sustainer of all, but because that’s how life works. They realized that He was no mere mechanistic puppeteer; He gave because He loved to give and because giving is the unique expression of His loving nature.
Yet Jesus was always getting. All the life He shared with them “in the heavenly courts” flowed back to Him “in praise and joyous service, a tide of love, to the great Source of all.”* They knew that it was not only like this in the heavenly courts, but that everybody, everywhere, throughout the entire universe, lived and loved and thrilled to this self-denying, other-serving, godlike living. Until Lucifer had a great idea.
As a child, my son was constantly having great ideas. I, his father, would uncharitably say, “Tell me your idea, son, and I will tell you . . .” Almost invariably, his ideas were beyond me. Lucifer was certain his great idea was beyond God’s self-denying, other-serving lifestyle. Why should everyone always help everyone else?
he thought. The unexamined premise is flawed: Does everyone actually need help from someone else?
God tried to show Lucifer privately that it was not merely a new idea (God loves thinking creatures!), but a nonviable way of trying to be. Trusting self instead of ever leaning on God is a lie. Keeping instead of sharing would spell disaster; getting instead of giving would be confusion; being the best you can be instead of making another the best she could be would ruin everything. Lucifer could not see how getting all you can, canning all you get, and sitting on the lid could be nonviable. “It would bring out the best in you,” he insisted. He and those who wanted the new, competitive way had to leave the heavenly courts.
In Eden Lucifer shared his idea with a smart, good-looking woman. He mentioned his insightful alternative to God’s arbitrary rule. Briefly, yet with all-embracing assurance, he told of fresh options available to independent thinkers, of new ways she could find to inhabit and operate the universe. He had come to these perceptions through a more careful focus on his own endowments (a corruption of his wisdom, Ezekiel called it [Eze. 28:17]). Given her remarkable talents, he reasoned, she could and should exercise her own initiative, and he showed her what profits she would earn as a result (Gen. 3:4, 5).
Lucifer could see much better now how getting all you can, canning all you get, and sitting on the lid could be nonviable. But he was not prepared to share too much with Eve. At first, when everybody always helped everybody else, he had been a helper. Now he was a deceiver.
Although Lucifer corrupted his wisdom because of his splendor, no one need conclude that God, therefore, erred in granting him perfect splendor of appearance, intelligence, sensitivity, or ingenuity. Rather, it is because, lamentably, he came to think of God-given gifts as destined for something more than constant service to everybody else. At first everybody always helped everybody else.
But with Lucifer’s alternative, I may now validate selfishness, if I wish, by quoting Matthew 19:19: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (KJV), missing the message that this makes my life a sacrifice on everyone’s behalf. Lucifer’s new strain of thought contradicts everything that first sustained creation. It validates self-centeredness, launches unholy ambition, and impugns the character of the Creator who apparently brings creatures into being, then abandons them to fend for themselves.
God’s salvation program takes us back to our origins in His beginning where all creation once lived as He lived, where, at first, everybody always helped everybody else.
* Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 21.
Lael Caesar is an associate editor of the
Adventist Review. This article was published August 25, 2011.