Genesis 3:16 - To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; ..."

To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." (Genesis 3:16)

Is God really cursing all women here?

Once again, a literal interpretation of these verses in Genesis would lend to a faulty and unscientific process of creation. This verse is not explaining the creation of woman's features and relationship with man. If it were, it is a very weak one, because most women of modern countries are certainly not ruled by their husbands, and many do not even have husbands.

And today's modern childbirth in hospitals is typically accompanied by pain medication, dramatically reducing if not eliminating most of the pain experienced by women during childbirth.

Does this mean that God's curse is actually pretty weak? That our modern inventions and society can overturn God's curses? Certainly not - and these are only some of the dangers of a literal interpretation of these verses in Genesis.

What we can see from these verses is that during that period of time when this story was handed down by ancient teachers, the prevailing society held that the man of the family ruled over the woman and childbirth was typically very painful. So the teachers of that day utilized those norms as part of the symbolism of this story. As mentioned previously, this would be compared to parents explaining something complex to a child using toys or animals as symbolism (the "birds and the bees" for example).

Why is symbolism being used?

The use of symbolism in ancient teachings also has another purpose: It ferrets out those who are not serious about learning the lessons being taught. To those, the symbolic story remains mysterious, because they are not so interested to know the truth. This was clearly communicated by a number of ancient teachers, including David, Isaiah and Jesus.

For example, Jesus indeed used one of Isaiah's statements when asked by a disciple why he spoke in parables:
"This is why I speak to them in parables: "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand." (Matt. 13:13)
This is certainly the case among so many of the sectarian institutions and their teachers that have tried to interpret Genesis literally. Their intent is so focused upon gaining and retaining followers to support their leadership positions that they have not only failed to understand the meaning of Genesis: They have misled others as well.

Rather, this verse is not describing a literal event. This verse is part of an allegorical teaching story (a parable) that is accurately describing, rich with symbolism, our fall from the spiritual world to the physical world, and our eventual fate within the physical world.

Let's review this. So far in the story, God asked Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of the "tree of knowledge". The serpent then came along and said the following about the 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)
We've discussed the symbolism involved in Genesis. As described, the tree of knowledge represents our freedom to love God or not. God gave us this facility because love requires freedom. No one can force a person to love them.

Aren't we all caregivers?

God created us to love Him and care for Him. This is the purpose of our existence. But because love and caring must be given voluntarily, God also gave us the freedom to choose to love Him or not.

So should we elect not to love God, we have created a gigantic void within us. When we are no longer loving the Person we are intimately connected to, we are lost. We are alone. We have no shelter and no protection.

What then would drive us not to love our Dearmost Friend, God? Envy. The desire to be God. Because we were created from God we have this tendency. This is why the symbolic serpent said: "your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God."

In other words, the desire to be God is what drives those of us who dwell within the physical world to avoid God while we try to enjoy ourselves.

Envy always ruins love. A person who becomes envious of someone else cannot love that person. Why? Because their focus is upon themselves and what they want rather than upon the other person and what makes the other person happy. Love is wanting to make someone else happy while disregarding our own happiness.

This is precisely why those who preach that we must love ourselves before we can love others are wrong. "Loving ourselves" is simply being self-centered. Loving others is unselfish. The two are diametrically opposed.

The symbolism of this story in Genesis becomes clear with this understanding: The serpent represents our enviousness of God, and eating the fruit represents our becoming consumed by self-centeredness and envy of God.

This state of enviousness and self-centeredness has no place in the spiritual dimension. Why? Because the spiritual dimension - our original home - is populated by those who love God and love each other. The spiritual dimension has no envy and self-centeredness. Thus there is no greed, no dishonesty and no hatred in the spiritual dimension.

Isn't this the place we always imagine for ourselves? So many people have talked about, and even worked to try to make the physical world "a better place." But it never seems to get any better. Why? Because this physical dimension is the world where all of those who chose envy and self-centeredness over love of God have been sent.

This is clearly being explained in this allegorical story in Genesis. After becoming envious, God is explaining - again in symbolic terms - the fate of one who becomes envious of God.

Once we become envious and self-centered, we must leave the spiritual world and enter the physical world. In order to live in this temporary dimension, we must take on these temporary physical bodies. These temporary physical bodies have a number of characteristics:

- These bodies are built for physical pain. Pain is part of birth, and continues intermittently throughout the body's duration through disease and injury. Even with the advent of pain medication, our bodies are a source of pain.

- Our physical bodies age and die. This illustrates that this is not our home. We are from another dimension, where we have a permanent existence. It is like being sent to prison: Knowing that we have a ten-year prison sentence indicates that we have an existence outside of prison.

- While in our physical bodies, we begin to identify with them. We falsely think these bodies are us. This enables multiple things at once: It enables us to escape God. For awhile, we get to pretend that we are the center of the universe, and God does not exist. It also enables us to try to carry out our desires: We get to play out our fantasies such as having others serve us, or having others pleasure us. These come from our initial envy of God: We want to enjoy like God.

- But because we are not God, this physical world is also programmed to gradually teach us this reality. God programmed consequences into the physical world: Every action here done selfishly has a consequence. If we hurt another person, we get hurt in the future. These consequences teach us how it feels to hurt others or otherwise take advantage of others.

- This is precisely why there is so much suffering in the physical world. The suffering in the physical world is caused by our actions - each of us, individually. Anyone who is suffering today is suffering because of something we did previously - whether previously in this physical body or when we occupied a previous physical body. This is precisely why Jesus' disciples, knowing this teaching, asked this question about a man who was born blind:
His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:2)
They asked this question because Jesus had previously taught them the law of consequences, and the fact that our past activities create our current situation.

This consequence training has two sides. Helping others improves our future situation. When we do things that have a positive effect upon others, we will experience similar positive effects in the future.

What are the benefits of consequence learning?

Child psychologists have determined through testing that consequence learning is the best way to raise a child. Why? Because we learn by experiencing the consequences of our actions.

God is the ultimate parent, who ultimately wants us to return to our natural state in the spiritual world. Why? Because He knows only this will bring us happiness.

Why would God care about us? Why not just throw us into the pit of the physical world and let us selfishly suffer here forever?

This is called mercy. God has mercy upon us because He loves each of us dearly. So He keeps trying to teach us and give us second chances.

He knows we will never be happy in our current state, no matter how successful we become. This is illustrated by the many wealthy and powerful people in our world today who are not happy. This is why even those with millions of adoring fans and all the money and power they could ever use can't get enough or succumb to alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and even suicide.

These indicate that our natural position is not being in God's position. We'll never be happy in a powerful position. We'll never be happy if we have all the enjoyments at our disposal: All the sex we want; all the food we want; all the attention we want. This will never make us happy, and God knows this.

You see, God cares about us and wants us to be happy. This is why He set up the physical world with pain and consequences, and this is why He sends us His representatives such as Moses, David, Jesus, and others: To hopefully teach us and encourage us to return to Him. To allow us the opportunity to re-develop our lost loving relationship with Him.

By nature, we are each loving caregivers. This is why even the most powerful, wealthy people often turn to work for the welfare of others. They realize that all that money and power doesn't give them happiness.

This is because we cannot by nature, truly enjoy by being the master. Our real enjoyment is caring for others.

Who is the real enjoyer?

No matter how hard we try to enjoy our life in this world, we remain empty. Even the most wealthy, powerful people will commit suicide or become addicted to drugs and alcohol. Why? Because all that supposed enjoyment doesn't fulfill us. It doesn't bring us happiness.

This is because God is the only real enjoyer.

By nature, God is the Enjoyer, and this is His natural position. We are His eternal servitors, and we are the caregivers of His other children. This is our natural position, and what brings us happiness.

We see mirror images of this type of relationship throughout the physical world. We see bees surrounding and caring for the Queen. We see soldiers serving kings, presidents, and generals. We see doctors and nurses caring for patients. These are all reflections of the situations that preside permanently in the spiritual world, but with God at the center, and mutual care-giving amongst all.

The variegated quality of the physical world, is, in fact, a reflection of the spiritual world - albeit a perverted reflection. The spiritual world is not devoid of relationships and community as many have conjectured. In fact, all the temporary relationships and organizations of the physical world simply indicate a permanent state of relationships and organizations originating elsewhere - the eternal spiritual world - the world where God is in charge and we are His servitors.

God is also the ultimate beloved. We must remember that this story in Genesis is allegorical. God is the perfect person - so wise, and so caring. He exchanges a unique loving relationship with each of us, and our relationships with others are based upon our unique relationship with God. The reflection of this in the physical world is how many of our relationships here are based upon our job or position in a family. The difference is that our spiritual relationship with God and His other children gives us each complete fulfillment. The spiritual world is our home. It is the only place we can sustain fulfilling relationships without those we care for dying or breaking up with us.

Now God, who truly wants us to be happy, simply wants us return to Him and resume our natural relationship as His lovers and servitors. But we must make the choice. He never forces us. He may nudge us, and try to teach us through the consequences of this physical world and the teachings of His representatives. But never will He force Himself upon us. Love requires freedom, and God simply wants our love.

This is why Moses' and Jesus' most important instruction was:
"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)

Consider another translation of this verse in Chapter Three of the New Book of Genesis.