Speaking to the woman, God promised hard “labor” would be her experience in childbearing and rearing. Speaking to the man God promised hard “labor” in earning a living. The word for “labor” in both cases is the same and it includes the idea of strenuous effort and pain. This is our lot in life, Genesis 3:19 tells us, “…till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Sue Richards, writes, “But why the repeated emphasis on labor and toil? Because, just as the Fall stripped Eve of her longing for God and replaced this healthy desire with an urge to please men, so Adam was stripped of his longing for God. What has replaced this healthy desire for God in males has been a desire to achieve by their own efforts. The psychological consequence of the Fall in men has been the emergence of a competitive desire to surpass other men—to bend every effort to excel. Genesis 3 depicts this struggle in agricultural terms and also describes its futility. Strive as a man will to build, whether kingdoms or companies or fortunes or power, dust awaits the individual. ‘Dust you are,’ the text reminds us, ‘and to dust you will return,’ leaving every meaningless accomplishment behind.”[1]

The writer of Ecclesiastes laments this situation and says all of man’s efforts are simply trying to catch the wind. It’s meaningless, useless; it’s vanity of vanities! The hero of the Old Testament Job was a righteous man (whatever that means) and yet suffered as much as any man. After losing his family and great wealth he says, “Naked came I into the world and naked from it I shall go.” Many criticize Christianity because it presents this gloomy picture of life. They argue that there are plenty of pleasures in life to pursue and that we should “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Solomon went after that and records his take on it all in Ecclesiastes, the book he wrote near the end of his life. He said that all these things are empty pursuits and they too do not bring ultimate happiness either and leave mankind yearning for something more. Why are we left in this state in life? Swindoll has a pretty good answer: “The inevitability of death does not mean life will never again be beautiful, just as banishment from the Garden does not mean people will never again regard God’s creation as lovely. But from that moment on, things changed. The world is not what it was, and we are reminded of that with every domestic argument, every drop of sweat, and every weed that grows in our gardens.”[2]

But Jesus came to reverse the curse for us. That’s why he wore a crown of thorns. He said in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” Great question for us all to ponder! Atkinson says, “How good that we are told of someone who stands in the breach as a Mediator with a word of Good News. The clothing of his righteousness, the acceptance, forgiveness, love and peace of his gospel, and the power of his resurrection, bring life back to the dead. Through Christ, the second Adam, life can begin again. Through him, the way can be opened again to the tree of life. Through him we can know our Creator once more as our Father, and in the fellowship of his Body can begin again to be made whole.”[3]

[1] Richards, Sue Poorman, and Larry Richards. 1999. Every Woman in the Bible. Nashville, TN: T. Nelson Publishers.

[2] Swindoll, Charles R., and Roy B. Zuck. 2003. Understanding Christian Theology. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Atkinson, David. 1990. The Message of Genesis 1–11: The Dawn of Creation. Edited by J. A. Motyer and Derek Tidball. The Bible Speaks Today. England: Inter-Varsity Press.