“And the serpent said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)
In Genesis 1 speech is a precious gift that enables us to understand the truth about God, ourselves and the world. It is also the means whereby we communicate with one another in love.
However, in Genesis 3 we discover another speaker enters the scene – Satan, masquerading in the form of a serpent. Satan wants to destroy our relationship with God and he does this by undermining our confidence in God’s word. His attack on it is the first strike in a great struggle involving our use of words. From then on, our ability to use words and understand them, as well as using words in a way that pleases God, has come under challenge.
This first becomes obvious when language is used to challenge God’s authority. “Did God really say?” Imagine what our lives would be like if our words were flawless and spoken in submission to God. One of the reasons we have so many communication problems is that we want to deal with issues in our own way. We are unwilling to allow God to control our thoughts and speech. This is what happened in the Garden of Eden. The result was death and chaos.
Again, we see another problem arising from our use of words in the Garden. This time it involves our use of words to describe reality. Satan manipulated words to convince Adam that life was no longer meant to be seen from God’s perspective. “You will not die,” he said, contradicting God’s view on the situation. Since that time we have found ourselves mired in communication difficulties because our understanding of our circumstances is based on a lie. We always think our views are right, but often they are wrong. When we give expression to them they simply complicate the situation and get us deeper into trouble.
Again, a further instance of the damage that Satan’s words caused in the Garden is seen in the way that Adam and Eve spoke against each other. Up to this point they had related to one another in truth and love; they never spoke selfishly. But now they engaged in hurtful accusations and put downs. We do the same. We pass blame on to others: “You make me so angry!” “I was never like this until I met you.” We trade insults.
The result is that we live in a world where speech is marked by lies, false interpretations of reality, blame and insult. No longer are words used in the way that God intended; they bear all the marks of Satan’s influence. But Christ can deliver us from the curse upon our speech. Our hope lies in His ability to renew our hearts and change our communication (2 Corinthians 5:17)