Our God is a living God, and God wants us to share his life. This is why "God planted a garden in Eden...and he placed there the man he had formed." In Eden he gave us near total freedom as a sign of his good will and his desire that we fulfill ourselves in every direction. Politics, art, science, literature, philosophy, music, sports, entertainment - all that conduces to human flourishing is desired by God.
But then enters the serpent. Like us, the serpent is a creature of God. He is totally dependent on God for his life. He is not some sort of co-equal rival to God. The Church has always taught that evil is parasitic on the good, not a substantive opponent.
Nevertheless, he is a wily opponent. He forces Eve to wonder about the prohibition: "Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?" When she clarifies, he says, "You certainly will not die! God knows well that the moment you eat of it you will be like gods knowing good and evil."
This is the great temptation and the great lie. The serpent places in the minds of Adam and Eve the conviction that unless and until they determine the meaning and purpose of their lives, they will not be free. To put it in modern terms, their lives will not be lived to the fullest.
But the knowledge of good and evil is the godlike prerogative to set the agenda for one's life, to determine the difference between right and wrong. And this belongs to God alone. Just as he breathed life and being into us, so he breathes moral and spiritual purpose into us.
When we convince ourselves that we live on our own terms, we cease to be truly free and alive.
When Adam and Eve grasped at this knowledge, they were expelled from the garden, not because God is vindictive, but because it is the natural consequence of making oneself into God.
When we grasp at divinity, whatever life we have dries up. We become small souls, locked in the prison of our egotism, victims of the Great Lie