Genesis Bible Study (God's Grace To Overcome)

Genesis 3:16-24, Why Life Is A Mess – Part 3


We have been examining God’s explanation as to why our lives are a mess. We noticed in the first lesson that our lives are a mess because we sin. We doubt God, believe the lies of the tempter, and we sin. Our sins cause deep messes in our lives. In our second lesson we learned that our lives are a mess because rather than confessing our sins to our God who is seeking us, we deflect and excuse our sins and we choose to hide from God. In this lesson we will look at Genesis 3:16-24 and we will further see why life is a mess.

Consequences To The Woman (3:16)

In the last lesson we saw the first consequence for sin declared which revealed that there would be a constant battle between good and evil. There will be hostility between the people of God and the people of Satan but the people of God will be victorious through Jesus. The second consequence is given to the woman in verse 16. Pain in childbearing is going to be multiplied. The text does not say that childbirth was not painful before. Rather, the pain that will exist in childbirth will now be severe. The pain will be multiplied. So when you are experiencing severe pain in childbirth, ladies, you will remember that this was a consequence for sin.

Not only this, the woman’s desire will be for her husband. Now we need to think about this for a moment. Is this a positive or negative? Since this is a curse, then we must read this as being a negative. Things are going to worse and will not be like they used to be. Therefore, the text is not saying that the wife is going to desire her husband in a positive way. That would not be a curse. That would not be a bad thing. If husbands and wives desired each other, then we would have far less marital troubles. Rather, she is going to desire her husband in a negative, destructive way. This is why some translations read the text this way:

“Your desire shall be contrary to your husband but he shall rule over you.” (ESV)

“You will want to control your husband but he will dominate you.” (NET)

“And you will desire to control your husband but he will rule over you.” (NLT)

This does come out in the Hebrew also. Look at Genesis 4:7 and you will notice that God tells Cain that sin’s desire is for him. Is that positive or negative? Is it positive or negative that sin desired Cain? It is negative and Cain must rule over it. Notice it is the same sentence here in Genesis 3:16. She will desire the husband in a negative way but he must rule over it.

The curse pronounced is that marital harmony will not be natural. There is going to be conflict. This pictures the worst of human nature. The woman at her worst is going to be the nemesis of the man, trying to control him. The man at his worst is going to dominate the wife. What I want us to hear is the friction that exists between man and woman is part of the fall and the consequence of sin. Therefore, when men and women do by nature what seems right to them, it will be a disaster for the marriage relationship. When men and women do by nature what seems right to them, they are going to be trying to control each other, raising themselves above the other.

Sin is going to pull us against each other, rather than toward each other as one flesh. Sin means that she will be negatively impacted by the strength of the man. I think we see this playing out in our society today also. Following our desires and feelings will bring about an adversarial relationship of control and domination that is not supposed to exist in the man/woman dynamic nor in the marriage relationship. It is sin and the consequence of sin. This is why life is a mess and marriages are a mess and why man and woman relationships are a mess. When we do what is natural in marriage, we are living the curse and not what God designed marriage to be. The reason life is a mess is because we do what is natural rather than what God desired.

Consequences To The Man (3:17-19)

The third consequence is given to the man in verses 17-19, which will show us further why life is a mess. Before giving the consequence, we are told exactly what Adam’s sin was. God says to Adam, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree…” Notice that God does not simply say, “Because you have eaten of the tree.” No, God underscores something. You listened to the voice of your wife. The point is not that men should not listen to the voices of their wives. Men are commanded to listen to the voice of their wives. The point is that Adam submitted to his wife to sin. Adam was passive in this sin. It was not that he was deceived by the serpent. Adam sinned at his wife’s prompting. He followed her lead to sin. Adam is condemned for not stopping this. Adam should not have listened to his wife and sinned as she wanted. Adam should have stopped this whole scene because Genesis 3:6 says that he was with her.

Husbands should desire to please their wives. We talked about this a few weeks ago in Genesis 2. Ephesians 5 tells husbands to give themselves to their wives like Christ gave himself for the church. This is a picture of complete life sacrifice. But there is an important line. Adam failed by going with Eve into sin. Rather than standing against sin and helping lead her wife from this spiritual disaster, he shirks his responsibility and follows her lead. So the sins are different. Eve was deceived by the serpent and sinned. Adam listened to Eve and sinned.

The consequence is that the work will be painful and difficult for man because the ground will lack fertility. The ground will grow thorns and thistles. It will be through difficult work that the ground will produce food. The creation is subjected to futility, decay, and deterioration. Rather than enjoying life with God, humanity will return to the dust. The point is that paradise is lost. Life is going to be hard. Work is going to be hard. Work is going to be exhausting. Life is a mess because God made futility come out of our efforts. God tells Adam that little return will be given for all the hard work he puts into the ground. This life is going to bring more futility and emptiness than results. Do you ever find life exhausting? Do you find work draining? Do you find that for all your labors you do not get that much back? This is the effect of the consequence of sin. This life is not going to be fulfilling. This life is not going to give back to you what you are putting into it.

Therefore, life will be a mess when we try to get more out this life than God intends for it to give. We cannot get life satisfaction from a ground that will bring forth thorns and thistles. God is already revealing that life without him is going to be futile. In fact, the whole book of Ecclesiastes explores this truth in detail, teaching that life is only found in fearing God and keep his laws.

God Provides (3:20-24)

But now God is going to show his amazing grace. First, even after his creation has sinned, the Lord makes permanent clothing for Adam and Eve. We read that Adam and Eve were hiding with fig leaves. Now that the creation has been subjected to futility, those leaves are not going to last. So God clothes his people. He provides for his creation exactly what they need even after their sin.

Second, we see God’s grace by throwing Adam and Eve out of the garden. Now we might be surprised by calling this action a grace of God. But verse 22 shows us why this is truly God’s grace. The Lord declares in verse 22 that they cannot allow Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of life while in this condition. Remember we saw that Adam and Eve are filled with shame, guilt, and fear. Rather than being in relationship with God, they are hiding from God. There is now a barrier between God and his people. The worst thing that could happen now would be for Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of life while in this condition. So the tree of life needs to be blocked. God does not punish Adam and Eve by driving them out of the garden but is protecting them. God is protecting his creation, keeping them from permanent spiritual disaster.


So why is life a mess? First, the text tells us that life is a mess because we act by nature in our relationships rather than how God commands us. We will see our marriages be painful and messy when we act by our natural inclinations rather than listening to God’s directions about what marriage should be like. This is also true regarding all of our earthly relationships. Doing what seems natural will ruin all relationships.

Second, the text tells us that life is a mess because creation is subjected to futility. You are not going to get out of life what you put into it. You are not going to get the satisfaction that you think you should get for what you put into it. But rather than understanding this truth, we work even harder and put even more effort into this world and into this life only to find further dissatisfaction.

Third, the text tells us that life is a mess because we must be separated from God. This is obvious but important to remember: this life is not paradise. We are not in the full and final presence of God. We are in a temporary, earthly world. This world is not going to be perfect. Your life is not going to go perfect. Your life is not going to go according to plan. You are not going to get lasting satisfaction out of this life. But God did this so that we would look around see that we are not in paradise and then long for the day when we are back in God’s presence. God’s presence is the definition of paradise. God’s presence is the definition of perfection and satisfaction. God is what you need. The world is a mess and life is a mess so that we would see this. Sin is why life is a mess. God is how to free yourself for the mess and find hope. God is how you will come back to paradise. God is paradise and we must draw near to him to enjoy it.

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