Genesis 3:17-19 - To Adam He said, "Because you listened to your wife ...

To Adam He said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." (Genesis 3:17-19)
Here the Supreme Being is describing, in allegorical terms, the fate of those of us who became envious of Him and wanted to enjoy as He enjoys.

Enviousness of God is represented in this symbolic parable by the serpent, who described what would happen when we - represented by Adam and Eve - ate of the symbolic fruit:
"For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Gen. 3:5)
Since Adam and Eve ate the fruit after the serpent said this, we can know that eating the fruit represents our deciding we wanted to be like God. Our enviousness took form, in other words.

And what form did it take? It resulted in our taking on these temporary physical bodies and temporary identities within the physical dimension.

This is the meaning of the verse, "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." The Hebrew word אדמה ('adamah) means "ground" or "land", but more specifically, "earth substance, ground as earth's visible surface," and "land, territory, country." This is referring, allegorically, to the physical world: The material world, as opposed to the spiritual dimension.

We are not physical. The physical body is like a vehicle that we, the spiritual being, gets into and drives for awhile. This might be compared to how a driver steps into a car and drives it for awhile, and then steps out.

Once in this physical body, we become enmeshed in our temporary identity, and all the trappings of the physical world. We might compare this to how a person might become engrossed in a computer video game.

This is the meaning of "for dust you are and to dust you will return," Once within the physical world, we begin to identify with this physical body. Then the physical body eventually dies and decomposes, returning to עפר `aphar, or "dust." If we become ensnared by the physical world, we will return, taking on another body according to our consciousness and deeds of this lifetime. This is the meaning of "and to dust you will return."

Here in the physical dimension, we are functionally separated from God. As we assume these virtual, false identities related to the physical body, we can forget God, and seek our own enjoyment as though we were the center of the universe.

In this way, we utilize these physical bodies to seek out our desires. We use them to try to enjoy consumption, sex, wealth, admiration, attention and hopefully, complete fulfillment. Here we want everyone to love us. Here we seek sexual enjoyment. Here we seek to be the head of a big family. Here we seek to be famous and admired by all. Here we seek power and authority. What are we seeking with all of these ambitions? We are seeking to enjoy as God enjoys: We want to be the supreme being.

But we are not the supreme being. We are not God. We were created to be God's eternal servitors. God created us to exchange a loving, caring relationship with us. We were made to care for Him and love Him. Yet love requires freedom, and we must have freedom to truly love, so God gave us the freedom to love Him or not. And since He made us from Himself, we also have the capacity to become envious of Him.

For those of us who became envious, we had to have a place to exercise our envy. This is the physical world.

Yet God still loves us, and wants us to be happy. We will never be happy separated from Him, because our natural position is His servitor. Therefore, He also programmed the physical world to rehabilitate us.

This is why the physical world has, along with facilities for us to act out our desires, so many challenges. Here we have to work hard for our food and shelter. Here we have so many challenges, including disease, pain and old age. Here we struggle with environmental challenges of heat and cold. Here we struggle with the challenges of insects and wild animals. Here we struggle with each other for territory and governance. Here many of us struggle with starvation and thirst. This might be a world where we can seek out our plans to enjoy; but this comes with significant hardship. Why? To teach us that this is not our real home.

So is God cruel? God, in fact, is the most gracious and kind being. He is the most loving and caring person. This is why He gives us the freedom to love Him or not. While the verse says "I commanded you," we know it wasn't much of a command, because Adam and Eve ate the fruit anyway. So either God's commands have little power, or the command was actually a request.

The tellers of this ancient allegorical parable were trying to describe using symbolism, why we are here in this physical world. The fact is, God is the most gracious of loving being, and while He certainly hopes that we would not become envious of Him, He graciously gave us that choice.

"If you love someone, set them free" was written by the musician, Sting, many years ago. It is appropriate here because God, who loves us, set us free. We can freely choose to love God or not.

Not only that, but if we choose not to love Him - symbolized here by Adam and Eve eating the fruit - then He gives us a space where we don't even have to see Him. Here in this physical world we can completely forget God. We can ignore Him and pretend that He doesn't exist. Now that is love.

What is the meaning of Adam listening to his wife? Remember that in this parable, each of us is individually symbolized by Adam, and the community of the spiritual world who partnered with Adam's decision - becoming envious of God - is represented by Eve. Thus, the meaning of Adam listening to his wife might be compared to peer-pressure. The fact is, part of the decision we made to become envious of God and separated from Him was based upon the encouragement of others who also felt envious. Each of us made the decision for ourselves - and are responsible for our decision - but we were also encouraged.

We can see this sentiment reflected throughout our physical existence, as people - and all creatures - tend to go along with our peers. Most people, in fact, wait until others are doing something before we feel comfortable doing it. Some call this "herd mentality." Why do we have such a "herd mentality?"

It is because by nature we are connected. We were all created by the Supreme Being, and as such, we are all one big family. While we do not like to think of each other as part of the same family, we are, and this is why we are always so interested in what everyone else is doing.

This is also part of why we strive so hard for the acceptance of others. While we might be seeking love and attention of others as part of our attempt to play God, we also need the love of others. It is intrinsic. We need love, because we come from a place - the spiritual world - where we are always being loved by the Supreme Being, and all of God's servitors - our brothers and sisters.

This love that pervades the spiritual world is hard to shake. It is part of us. Beneath our false identity that this body has created due to our envy, each of us needs love, and the care of our Best Friend, God.

And those of us who are trying to avoid God here, we instead seek to obtain this love and care from our families, our so-called friends, our spouses, our clubs, our churches, and/or other institutions that provide the illusion of love.

And these are illusions. We gain no real love from these people or groups: They are simply after their own satisfaction. What passes for love within most families and others is mostly sentiment. Love - caring for someone more than we care about ourselves - is different than sentiment.

There might be a glimpse of a little love mixed with a lot of sentiment in families. But for most people, sentiment is mostly all there is.

By God programming the physical world with "thorns and thistles," we are being told that this place isn't our real home. Just imagine if God made this a great place with no suffering. Why would we want to leave? Why would we question our (false) identity? Why would we want to go home?

But why would God ordain such a fate of suffering? Again, is God cruel? This question is often asked in another form, as people who see suffering around the world ask the question:

If God exists, why are so many people suffering?

The answer to this lies first in the fact that it is not us who are suffering. It is our temporary physical bodies. It is like driving a car with a bad engine that breaks down. The driver does not become sick if the car breaks down. The driver simply steps out of the car untouched.

In the same way, the spiritual being is separate from the physical body. We only suffer to the extent that we identify with the physical body. Outside of that, there is no actual suffering. It is only learning.

It is like playing a video game. Our game icon might be blown up or punched or shot many times. Are we shot when our game character is shot? No. We turn off the computer and walk away unharmed.

Now let's imagine that we are playing a computer video game, and the game is set up with a system of tests and challenges, with score-keeping. As we play the game, we are being taken through various lessons. Every time we do something that hurts another person in the game, our computer icon suffers in the same way and loses points. And when we do something that helps another, our computer icon gains points and experiences good things. What does this teach us?

This is what is going on the physical world. Our physical bodies suffer as consequences to our previous actions. Therefore, all the "suffering" of the physical world is caused by each of us, individually. We each cause our physical body's suffering by our past choices, either in this lifetime or a previous lifetime. This produces lessons - each teaching us.

God is not only the most lovable, giving and caring Person. He is not only our Best Friend and constant Companion (even when we are here, He is still with us, hidden from our physical view). God is also the most intelligent person. Just consider the intelligence to create this virtual world, the physical world, where we have the facility to seek out our own enjoyment while being able to ignore Him, yet with the facility to learn so many lessons. Such an intelligent and resourceful God!

And what do the lessons of the physical world ultimately teach us? How to love again. The consequence learning of this world is set up to first give us choices as to which path we want to take. Should we make the right choices, the world teaches us how to care for each other and love one another. This ultimately prepares us, if we so desire, to re-develop our love for God and return to the spiritual world.

This is ultimately God's purpose, because God wants us back. He is saddened that we are seeking our happiness outside of our relationship with Him. He is saddened that we are seeking our love "in all the wrong places."

Why is He saddened? Because He knows that we'll only be happy when we are back in His loving arms, in our natural position of exchanging an intimate relationship with Him. He knows our natural position as His loving servitor is the only thing that will make us happy. And He wants us to be happy because He loves us unconditionally.

This is why Jesus and Moses, and all the great saintly persons teach the same message:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'" (Mark 12:30 and Deut. 6:5)