I was pondering the verse in Genesis when God doles out the list of consequences for the first sin ever committed. Man’s sin damaged the threefold harmony of the Garden of Eden – perfect harmony with God and God’s law, with oneself internally, and with the natural world.
Imagine: Adam did not have to deal with internal conflict or tension, sexual temptation, or a feeling of being distant from God and wondering what God’s will is for his life.
His harmony with creation was perfect. The ground did not need to be worked hard to produce fruit; it just bore great gifts all the time.
Then pride stepped in.
And everything changed.
Man was separated from God by disobedience and the resulting shame.
Man was stricken with concupiscence, the tendency to sin that we feel when faced with temptation to this day. What internal tension and strife this causes us all!
Man’s relationship with the earth was forever damaged as a consequence of sin.
No longer was the earth easy to till and food in casual abundance. No longer were animals all friends; the first physical death in the Garden took place when God made clothing out of animal skin for Adam and Eve. Fear entered the relationship between man and animals.
And God, the benevolent Father, had to discipline.
The root of discipline is “to teach.” All discipline is part of discipleship, teaching the child (or in this case, Adam and Eve) to conform to God’s will and become closer to the person God created them to be.
God’s discipline is perfect.
He teaches us all the consequence of putting ourselves first: We have to work harder.
We have to sacrifice more. The easy life wasn’t right for us, so now we need to feel pain and toil in order to help us to build our self-control and have opportunities for generosity.
“Cursed be the ground because of you! In toil shall you eat its yield all the days of your life…
By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat, until you return to the ground, from which you were taken;
For you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return.” (Gen. 3:17-19, NAB)
For thousands of years, man has toiled.
For thousands of years, the physical consequence of sin has been felt by everyone who eats.
The spiritual consequence of sin, of course, is death, which was lovingly taken on the shoulders of Christ two thousand years ago. We can rejoice and praise Him for saving us from that awful fate.
But He never said He was negating the temporal consequence of sin as well.
The toil is still ours to bear.
Modern Agriculture – Toil?
Lately I hear that many modern farmers describe themselves as “drivers.”
They drive a tractor to plant, drive again to fertilize and kill weeds and pests, and drive around once again to harvest.
Not nearly as sweat-inducing as the toil of the ground in years past.
The use of chemical fertilizers, GMO crops, and broad spectrum pesticides and herbicides make farming easier, and they also demonstrate a certain act of pride on the part of man – that we are in charge of the land, dominating it.
The modern conveniences of food not only support and force that system of mass production, but it means everyone who participates in the cultural food system also participates in avoiding the consequence of sin, the toil of the field. This is not about the farmers; it’s about the culture of “taking it easy.”
When my kids won’t accept a consequence for their actions, I cannot just stop the discipline because it didn’t work. They have to receive another consequence, so that they learn to obey, and to learn from their consequences. (Or at least go to their rooms when they’ve earned a timeout so Mom doesn’t explode on them!)
I wonder: When man collectively eschews the consequence of sin, when we allow our pride and selfishness to compel us to take control of the natural world and dominate it through unnatural means, what sort of second consequence for our impertinence might our good and just God have in store?
Is our modern world experiencing the secondary consequences of trying to avoid the toil mankind earned in the Garden?
And if so, how do we stop the cycle?
I can’t help one last thought:
Do we need to conduct a similar exploration of Eve’s consequence: “…in pain you shall bring forth children…” to reflect the trend of scheduled-for-convenience C-sections and designer births?
See all my Mary and Martha Moments for more faith from the kitchen. (Most of them are much more upbeat and encouraging than this one…)
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