At some point in high school you probably heard the maxim that there are really only three different kinds of stories, the rest is just window dressing (aka “details”). The three types are commonly listed as…
- Human vs. Nature
- Human vs. Human
- Human vs. Self
Here’s the cool part: there really aren’t three kinds of stories at all. There’s only one story. The three kinds are just subplots.
Today I had the pleasure of leading a Bible study based on Gen 3:14-24. The story so far is this: after God creates a perfect world and lovingly places the crown of his creation, mankind, into a wonderful home, they disobey him. They break the one easy command he gave them, and sin enters the world. Yes, they were egged on by Satan (who had possessed a serpent), but the fault, ultimately, was with humans. Here’s where we pick up…
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all the livestock
and all the wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
16 To the woman he said,
“I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;
with pain you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”
17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”
20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.
21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
See anything familiar here? Let the careful reader take note:
- Human vs. Nature: “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
- Human vs. Human: “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
- Human vs. Self: “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.”
That last one may take a little explaining. It’s a bit of holy irony on God’s part. Mankind is not so much like God anymore, because he now knows evil as something he must struggle against, indeed, as something that masters him unless the Lord calls him to a new life in faith. Thus, human vs. self.
But it’s not so much that the “three kinds of stories” have their origin in sin. The main point is this: the “three kinds” are subplots to the one, big, real story out there.
God said to Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
Of course, this is none other than the first promise of the Savior! And in fact, that is the story that drives the “three kinds” subplots, because God created each of the “three kinds” in order to remind mankind that we were not created for this kind of life. We were not created for a sinful, messed-up world where we struggle daily against our environment, each other, and our selves. No, we were created to live in peace and harmony with God, with all his creation, with each other, and with our selves. In fact, when properly told, the “three kinds” of stories amount to none other than the Law, the Law that drives sinners to cry out to God, “what must I do to be saved?”
The answer isn’t found in the subplots. It’s found in the main plot, which Jesus himself broke down for us about 2,000 years ago:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).