God's Curses After the Fall and Modern Conveniences

Salvete, omnes!

After the Fall, God is said to have made thistles and thorns appear for our punishment for sin as a curse on the Earth. He also declared that we would eat our bread “by the sweat of our brow”. If God wished to punish us like this, why do we now have all kinds of modern conveniences so that we do not all have to do this? Should we not rather suffer the punishment God has meeted out rather than try to get around it? Should we not, for example, all work the land “by the sweat of our brow” rather than going to the store to get food so that it makes our lives more convenient? Should we not even use modern farming techniques that make farming easier since we are to get our bread “by the sweat of our brow” and, not only this, but “all the days of” our lives? I mean, it would seem that God wants us to spend a considerable amount of our time laboring and toiling/suffering in the labor because of our sin. If we shouldn’t all have to do this, then, why not?

Also, God said that He would greatly increase a mother’s pangs in childbirth. Would it be a sin, then, for a mother to take any medication that would dull this pain? Should she not rather suffer it in its fullest intensity as punishment for her sin? If not, then why not?

Furthermore, is any modern convenience even outside of farming and childbirth and other things specifically mentioned in curses to be shunned in favor of our just (given by God) suffering in labor for our sins? If not, why not? Take machines, for example, that can now do the often (though not always) difficult work that humans used to have to do. Should we not use them because we are not living out the suffering that God desires us to live out as just punishment for our sins?

It would seem that God wants us to spend most of our lives in toil/suffering for our sins and fr less time in enjoyment as many of us very often do today. It would seem that He wants us to do this as punishment for our sin.

Some might argue that He was only speaking to Adam and Even, though others may counter that Adam and Eve also stand in for man and woman generally down through the ages.

If modern conveniences have been designed with the purpose of giving us more time to enjoy life and less time to have to labor or even labor with difficulty, then should we not have them at all, since God seems to want us to labor away our lives?

Any help understanding all this would be much appreciated. I would especially be interested in what those in support of modern conveniences such as those in farming and childbirth would have to say about these things.

I suggest you get a good book on the Catholic approach to studying the bible, particularly on the four senses of scripture. You can read a little about that in the Catechism, but a good book on it would be more in depth. You can read this article, here.

The first eleven chapters of Genesis communicate a truth about the origins and fall of man. The Catholic Church does not interpret the first eleven chapters literally. See here.

Historically, the Church has had no theological problem with anesthesia. Neither has any Jewish body, to my knowledge. Similarly, no Catholic or Jewish body has had any problem with labor-saving agricultural devices. In fact, monks have been among the biggest experimenters and innovators of agricultural technology.

God’s curses in this chapter are what Scott Hahn calls “covenant curses.” The format is that God grants good stuff as part of a covenant (new family relationship), but also warns people that breaking the covenant will result in being subject to certain bad results, or “curses.” (In Genesis, it’s “dying the death.”) Very often, these curses are just natural consequences to doing something stupid (like the prophet warning Israel about what happens to people who have kings who aren’t God).

However, covenant curses incurred by disobedience are always subject to being softened by God’s kindly response to human obedience, or by God’s mercy. Softening can occur for everyone or for individual persons. It’s all God’s grace.

The curses you’ve mentioned are already a softened version of “dying the death.” In the Fall, we all became mortal; but because it wasn’t all Adam and Eve’s fault, they didn’t die that very same day, they were able to produce offspring, and they were able to support themselves off the land.

God further softened the curse by making durable leather clothes for Adam and Eve, and teaching them how to do it. We also see many accounts in Genesis of various human inventions softening the curse and making it easier for humans to live outside Eden, even including things invented by Cain and his kids.

So basically, whenever human ingenuity can soften one of God’s curses, it is allowed by God; and indeed, it counts as God’s mercy on us.

That said, of course some fortunate women don’t feel much or any pain in childbirth; that is another softening. Similarly, we can eat wild fruit, nuts, and leaves without cultivating the soil, even though pretty much everybody has to do some kind of hunting or herding or economic activity, in order to live.

And the ultimate softening of the curses so far was Mary’s birth of Jesus, which was not only painless but did not even change her body’s physical virginal integrity. In the end, we will also no longer “die the death,” because Jesus has died for us so that we can have eternal life; and in the life to come, we won’t have to work in able to eat, either.

Hope this helped!

1Ke’s response is spot-on; but I’d like to add a little bit.

The purpose of the Genesis account, whether you take it literally or allegorically, is not to indicate that God wants us to toil. It is indicating that, through the actions of our first parents, paradise was lost to us and toil became necessary. The reason they had to toil was because they were no longer in the Garden of Eden. In the Garden, food was plentiful and required no effort to obtain; outside of the garden it was necessary to work for food. God didn’t change anything about reality after the fall, it was Adam and Eve that changed. Outside of the garden always required toil to grow food.

The Curse is not something we are commanded to do; it is something we endure whether we would or not, and whatever level of technology we have. Do you really think man could escape divine punishment by human ingenuity?

Modern conveniences may remove some forms of suffering, at least temporarily, but they create others. There are always trade-offs. Think of the headaches we have with computer systems going awry; pollution from factories; radiation leaks; identity theft, corporate giants that monopolize the food industry, give us cancer, and put local farmers out of work, to name a few.

That said, it is certainly true that luxury tends to be opposed to the Christian life. Christ exhorted us to live the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience; but poverty does not have to mean destitution; it denotes a detachment from worldly comforts and possessions.

Should Catholics forego medical treatments that merely alleviate pain, in order to make reparation for sin? This is certainly a commendable thing to do, but it is not a moral requirement. To take the pain-killer in due moderation (rather than refusing it) would, in itself, at worst be an imperfection. Taking pain-killers might be preferable, if for example it would help us avoid an occasion of sin, or if refusing them would cause undue distress to those who care about us.

The Amish seem to agree with this idea. They still use horse and buggy to get around. They usually don’t have electricity, etc.

Not at all. This is in no way the basis of the Amish way of life.

Good questions, It does make you wonder.

Furthermore, Its pretty well known, Satan has this world tightly in his grip, so maybe that is why our world is made to be so comfortable? Sure, we are given other reasons for these things, ya know, progress, science and technology always striving to make our lives easier, no matter what the cost…sounds like something Satan would ‘infect’ his world with…if you make everyones life easy and comfortable, not as many are going to turn to God for help.

I have a feeling if the people living back at the time when Jesus walked the earth, could see our modern times and some of our comforts and conveniences, they would probably call many of them blasphemous, hedonistic, etc.

But Im no different, I like my nice fluffy bed, my carpeting that soft to walk on, medicine that takes away any little pain I have, spending $1000s and 1000s of dollars so I can own and drive car, get from A to B in comfort, etc etc, I could go on and on…see what Im saying?

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