Origins of… Shame

Genesis 3:7-13, 21

Having given in to temptation and sinned (as we explored in the previous sermon), we now look at the effect this had on the man and the woman and the way it affected their relationship with each other and with God.

The first thing mentioned is that they realised they were naked and attempted to solve this problem by sewing together fig leaves to make loincloths for themselves. As chapter 2 ended, we were told that they ‘were both naked and were not ashamed’, but now something has changed. Once they had sinned, there was a sense of shame associated with their nakedness. They felt exposed and tried to solve this through their improvised clothing.

This attempted solution clearly did not suffice, as when they heard the Lord hiding in the garden they hid. This is a defining feature of shame; fear of being exposed and so attempting to hide from God and from others. This hiding is both physical (in the trees) and rhetorical (failing to take responsibility but rather shifting the blame – first from the man onto the woman and then from the woman onto the serpent).

Shame is both a common and a right response to having done wrong. It demonstrates an awareness of our unfitness to stand before God in our sin. In verse 21, despite their sin and banishment, God provides clothing for Adam and Eve. Even at this early stage of the story we see that the way shame will ultimately be covered is not by the efforts of the man and the woman but by God’s gracious provision. This is pointing us to Christ’s atoning death on the cross, through which all our sin is vanquished and we are clothed in his righteousness, and so no longer have any reason to be put to shame.

Some Key Points:

  • Having sinned, the man and the woman experience shame, and attempt to cover themselves and hide from God. They also shift the blame for their sinful activity.
  • God himself provides the coverings that they need, giving garments of skins. These skins were the results of sacrifices that were made to cover their shame.
  • This points us to the death of Christ, by which our shame is ultimately covered.

Following the Threads:

  • The Old Testament frequently makes use of the ‘filthy garments’ metaphor for our sin (e.g. Isaiah 63:2) and even for our supposed good deeds (Isaiah 64:6). This highlights the shame that we bear.
  • Isaiah 61:10 is a prophetic passage speaking of garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness. This is fulfilled as we are given the righteousness of Christ (see for example Romans 5:17).
  • Hebrews 12:2 talks of the shame of the cross. Jesus bore our sin and was stripped and exposed. His shame was such that the Father hid his face. We are told that Jesus despised the shame. Unlike Adam and Eve his response to the moment was not shaped by the shame he bore, but by the mission he had come to fulfil.
  • Romans 10:11 makes it clear that now for followers of Jesus, we can never be put to shame.
  • Revelation 19:6-8 explains that this is because we now have been covered by fine linen, bright and pure.

Potential Applications:

  • Grace Emphasis – Many will be living with shame because of particular sins they have committed. It is important in this message to have a strong emphasis on grace and point them to the one who takes away all our shame.
  • The Way We Treat Others – Western culture is becoming increasingly shame-orientated, with people being ‘cancelled’ and exposed on social media if they say or do things that are deemed wrong. There is a challenge here to live in a counter cultural way, to reach out to those who are shamed and to offer the free grace of the gospel.