And the LORD God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.”
As I reflect on Genesis 3:21 with its picture of God making garments so as to clothe the first couple, I’m struck by something that seems almost too obvious to mention. Are you ready? God provides clothes for those who need them. See, I told you it was obvious. Yet, I mention this because it reveals something crucial about God even as it gives us an example to follow.
In Genesis 3:21, God responds to human need in a tangible, physical way. God reveals his care for those in need, even when their need is a direct result of their own sin, as in the case with Adam and Eve. God does not stand back aloofly and say, “Well, you got yourself into this mess. Now you’re going to have to get yourself out of it.” Rather, God helps the first humans, providing what they need to survive in a newly hostile world. Thus, God reveals his compassion for broken, needy people. Moreover, in his care for Adam and Eve, God models behavior for us to emulate. We are to be like God both by feeling compassion for those in need and by caring for them in tangible ways.
Other passages in Scripture underscore and expand upon what we find in Genesis 3:21. In Isaiah 58:6-7, for example, the Lord says: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” God is worshiped when we seek justice and exercise care for those in need. Similarly, Jesus foresees the day when he, as the royal Son of Man, will honor those who have shown justice and compassion to the needy: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Matt 25:35-36). Jesus identifies so closely with the needy among his people that he receives care for them as if offered to him.
There are countless practical ways for us to be people of justice and compassionate care. I think of business leaders who ensure that their companies pay people fairly and provide ample health insurance. I remember Christians who are using their gifts to help people in poverty develop businesses that provide income, self-esteem, and hope. Additionally, there is one way that almost every one of us can follow God’s example in Genesis 3:21. It’s something I was encouraged to do many years ago and have continued to do on an annual basis. Once a year, I go through my clothing, collect what I don’t often wear and give it away to the needy through the Salvation Army or similar organizations. I usually do this after Christmas, when, inevitably, I have added to my wardrobe. I’m always amazed, to be honest, by how much I have accumulated in a year, and therefore how much I’m able to give away. I ask myself, “Will I really wear this?” If the answer is “No,” then I give it away.
This coming December, when I engage in my annual donation ritual, I will remember how my behavior reflects God’s own activity in Genesis 3:21. Perhaps you’ll be encouraged to join me in this exercise of compassion if you don’t already do this. Or, perhaps God will guide you in other ways to seek justice and care for those in need.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When you ponder God’s clothing of the first humans, what do you think? What do you feel?
In what ways do you already participate in God’s work of doing justice and caring with compassion? Might God be leading you to something more?
Gracious God, thank you for clothing the man and the woman. Thank you for your compassionate care for them . . . and for all your people. So many times, Lord, you have shown your care for me. Thank you!
Help me, I pray, to be like you, to feel compassion for those in need and to act with generosity and justice. May I use well the authority and influence you have given me, so that your goodness might be pressed into this world. Amen.