DO YOU WANT TO BE LIKE GOD?
T. PIERCE BROWN
In Genesis 3:5, Satan tempted Eve by suggesting that if she ate of the fruit, she would be like God. These questions may be raised, “Is it wrong to want to be like God?” “If it is not a sin to want to be like God, can that desire lead to sin?” “Since Christ was God in the flesh, is there any danger in wanting to be Christlike?” Since we never remember hearing these questions discussed, perhaps some study of them would be profitable.
First, let us be aware that when God said in Genesis1:26, “Let us make man in our own image” He did not mean, “Let us give man the qualities of divinity, such as omnipotence, omnipresence or omniscience.” For want of a better term, we may speak of the qualities of divinity as infinite. God has infinite, unlimited, or inexpressible power, knowledge, wisdom and love. It is proper for man to want to have every quality God has, but not to the degree. If one had the degree of knowledge, power or wisdom that God has, he would be God. To want to be like God is one thing; to want to be God is another. To want to be exactly like God in all respects is equivalent to wanting to be God, and is wrong. To want to be like God in all respects that are involved in our being in His image is good.
Let us note some things about God. God has riches beyond our conception. Is it wrong for us to want to be rich? Does the Bible at any point teach that money is the root of evil? There is no question that 1 Timothy 6:9 teaches, “But they that are minded to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and hurtful lusts, such as drown men in destruction and perdition.” The words “are minded” are from the Greek, “boulomenoi.” This means that their fixed purpose or central desire is to be rich. If your heart is centered on getting rich, you sin. But if a man’s central purpose is to glorify God and serve humanity, the more money he has the better it will be. Ephesians4:28shows it is right to want to have things. “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have whereof to give to him that hath need.” The problem comes when we cut the sentence off at “that he may have” and thus leave it unbalanced.
There is an old saying that “power corrupts.” It is not really power that corrupts, for if it did, God would be most corrupt. But when a corrupt person has power, his corruption becomes more evident, and he tries to become more powerful and more corrupt. If a person were seeking the Presidency of the United States, or a seat in Congress for the primary purpose of serving the people and glorifying God, it would be a most noble thing and worthy of note and support. It is not a sin to want power if one wants it to use in a godly manner.
God is wise. Is it wrong to desire knowledge and wisdom? Surely no one would so assert. But if it is not desired and used as God uses it — for the glory of God and good of mankind — it is a sin. Our basic problem is that we seek knowledge for our own selfish ends. We want to gain power, manipulate, or control others. When Paul said in 1 Corinthians 8:1, “Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth,” it is certain that he did not mean that everyone who seeks or has knowledge will be puffed up when he gets it. He is showing that knowledge without love leads to sin. That is a specific example of the principle I am trying to emphasize in this article.
That principle is that when one seeks to have any one attribute of God without it being balanced with other attributes, he becomes unbalanced, or not God-like, and will sin. This is true even with love. Suppose a person says, “God is love. I am going to love everything and everyone, and thus be like God.” If he does not realize that God also hates, he will sin. If a person says, “God is just. I will demand absolute justice in all my dealings with others” and does not balance that justice with mercy and love, he will sin.
When Christ came to the earth and demonstrated a loving life of sacrificial service, He was not stepping out of character and becoming like a man. Mankind is not interested in sacrificial service. Man in general is not interested in gaining power, knowledge or wealth to glorify God and help mankind. He is generally interested in gaining power, knowledge and wealth for his own selfish ends, and therefore is not being Godlike. He would be Godlike if he sought power, knowledge or wealth to use as God would use them. Christ was staying in character, and showing mankind how to become like God by living or dying in sacrificial service.
This is why Peter was so shocked when Jesus girded Himself with a towel and washed their feet. Peter thought it was out of character for one so great as Christ to perform such lowly tasks. But Jesus had told Philip, “Have I been so long time with you, and dost thou not know me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:8).
If one really wants to be like God, he may seek all the power, wisdom, knowledge or wealth that it is possible for him to have, for he will be using it for God’s glory and for the good of mankind. He will be serving humanity, not by lowering himself to the nature and level of man, but by raising himself to the nature and level of God. For Christ demonstrated as clearly as possible that God’s nature is to serve.