Modesty Series Part 2: Knowledge of Evil and Human Sexuality

In part 1 of this series on biblical modesty, we saw how:

  • GOD created humans to be nude.
  • Adam and Eve didn’t know they were nude.
  • Because Adam and Eve didn’t know they were naked, they had no shame.
  • Sin created three knowledge types within humans:
    • Knowledge of evil
    • Knowledge of nakedness
    • Knowledge of shame
  • Ashamed at their nakedness, Adam and Eve used leaves to hide their public nakedness and then they hid from GOD.
  • Adam and Eve did not hide their nakedness from each other (marriage).
  • Shame is the natural human reaction to public nakedness.
  • This awareness of the need to hide our nakedness is the biblical concept of modesty.

In this, part 2 of the series, we look at the downstream consequences of the three types of knowledge upon human sexuality.

Weakness of Human Flesh

Eve ate the forbidden fruit because she was tricked by the serpent. Apparently, Adam ate simply because Eve gave it to him and she ate. (Ugh! Isn’t this so like us to do this, guys? Sigh.)

But let’s look a little deeper.

4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You shall not die by death. 5 For God knows in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw the tree was good for food, was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree beautiful to contemplate, she took its fruit and ate. She also gave it to her husband with her, and he ate.
(Genesis 3:4-6 OSB)

Eve saw that the fruit looked:

  1. Good for food — “seemed like a smart idea”
  2. Pleasant — “looks like it would be fun”
  3. Beautiful — “looks like it would be fun”

Note that Eve thought these things before she ate—before sin had altered her being. They factored into her decision to eat.

Satan told Eve that eating would be good for her. Despite what GOD, Eve thought about Satan’s lie and then these desires—these observations—came into her heart.

In Scripture, we read of two sources of human temptation:

  1. The devil
  2. Our own desires

James wrote:

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
(James 1:13-15 NKJV)

GOD created humans possessing weak flesh, weaker and lower in capability than angels.

4 For I shall look at the heavens, the works of Your fingers,
The moon and stars You established.
5 What is man that You remember him,
Or the son of man that You visit him?
6 You made him a little lower than the angels;
You crowned him with glory and honor.

(Psalm 8:4-6 OSB)

The weakness of our earthly body makes it hard to consistently obey GOD and follow Jesus. Even though we want to do what is right, and even though we try our best, we still sin sometimes. We still make unhealthy and foolish choices.

For whatever reason(s), GOD decided it was best to make human flesh weak.

Returning to the Garden scene, in the weakness of Eve’s (yet-sinless) flesh, she desired something that was very, very bad for her.

From the beginning, humans have been unable to consistently:

  1. Know what is best for us, and …
  2. Choose what is best for us, even when we may know what choice that is.

Weak Flesh + Knowledge of Evil

I believe the “knowledge of evil” has a dual meaning.

First, knowledge of evil refers to awareness, awareness that evil exists and a (heightened) ability to actively contemplate doing evil.

Second, knowledge of evil refers to experience. Adam and Eve suddenly knew what it was like to do evil, to be guilty of sin, and to bear the guilt, shame, and consequences of choosing evil.

GOD did not desire for humans to know evil. However, GOD of course knew we would choose evil.

All of the corruption and bad things that happen in our world arise from the combination of possessing weak flesh and a knowledge (a mind) to do evil. We are going to do what we want to do. 

Compartmentalization of Nudity

When GOD created marriage, nudity was the norm inside and outside the marriage relationship.

Although it’s speculation, presumably, had sin not entered the human makeup, Adam and Eve, their children, eventually their daughter and Cain, and another daughter and Abel, etc., would each be enjoying the blessings of curse-free marriage while naked, privately and publicly.

But once they knew evil and realized their nakedness, Adam and Eve were embarrassed, so GOD gave them clothes from animal skin to hide their nakedness from everyone but each other.

The nudity that was once open yet innocent now needed to be compartmentalized to the marriage relationship only.

What Adam and Eve were once able to enjoy openly without reservation now needed to be reserved for private, away from the eyes of others and without the shame of public embarrassment.

Sexual Desire + Knowledge of Evil

We know that GOD designed men to desire women and women to desire men. This includes sexual desire.

The desire to see, smell, touch, converse with, give and receive affection, and to sexually know someone of the opposite sex, all of that is from GOD. It’s how He made us.

Sexual craving is not evil or bad. By itself, sexual desire is good and holy.

You may know that the Bible includes sexually explicit content. While some of this content is spoken of in a negative connotation, such as Ezekiel 16, most of this language is positive and expressing of the holy desire between either a not-yet-married or married couple.

Consider, for example, the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon):

1:5 I am black and beautiful,
O daughters of Jerusalem,
As the tents of Kedar,
As the curtains of Solomon.

6 Do not look at me because I am black,
For the sun gave me a tan.

12 While the king was at the table,
My spikenard gave forth its smell.
13 My beloved is to me a bundle of myrrh;
He shall take rest in between my breasts.

2:3 As the apple among the trees of the woods,
So is my beloved among the sons.
I desired to be in his shadow and to sit down;
And his fruit was sweet in my mouth.

3:1 In the night on my bed
I sought him whom my soul loves;
I sought him, but did not find him.
I called him, but he did not hear me.

3:3 Scarcely had I departed from them
When I found him whom my soul loves.
4 I held him and would not let him go
Until I brought him into my mother’s house,
Into the chamber of her who conceived me.

(Song of Songs 1:5-6, 12-13; 2:3; 3:1, 3-4 OSB)

Like Eve’s desire to eat the forbidden fruit, the desire for sexual experience is dangerous and can be deadly.

Like all but one tree in the Garden, GOD has given men and women the marriage relationship for giving and receiving sexual fulfillment. In general, a husband and wife have free rein to pursue their desires with one another inside the confines of the marriage bed. This is good and holy and GOD-ordained.

But like the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, men and women must resist any desire to pursue sexual fulfillment apart from their spouse (of the opposite sex).

Beauty Elicits Sexual Desire

The Scriptures affirm what experience tells us: Bodily beauty makes us look. Men and women, we all do it. We can’t help but notice because that’s how GOD made us.

  • Shechem saw Jacob’s daughter Dinah and was so turned on he raped her and then pursued marrying her (see Genesis 34).
  • Samson pestered his parents into negotiating a dowry for a Philistine woman, saying, “I have seen a woman in Timnah …” (see Judges 14).
  • David adulterated with Bathsheba because he saw her beauty while bathing (see 2 Samuel 11).

Noticing is not bad. Looking is not bad. The challenge is what happens next.

Like Eve, once we see, we want. Also like Eve, as we think about what we’ve realized that we want, our desire grows stronger.

And in these moments, the words we’ve previously read from James describe the clear-and-present danger we face:

15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
(James 1:13-15 NKJV)

Unmastered evil desire results in sin. Walking unrepentantly in sin results in death.

“Everybody” wants to look good. If you had the power to modify your physical appearance, most would change themselves in ways they feel would make themselves more attractive, not less.

But the desire to make ourselves appear more beautiful comes with a cost.

In part 3 of this series, we will look at the relationship between outward beauty, sexual desire, and the Christian’s attitude toward them.

Want more teaching on biblical modesty? Check out my video lesson entitled Re-Thinking (Biblical) Modesty.


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