Just after Adam and his wife shared of the forbidden fruit, they realised that they were naked. The eyes of both were opened, so they sewed together fig leaves to cover their nakedness (Gen. 3:7).
The question now is one of ‘right standing’, or—call it—righteousness. Before the fall, man and woman had stood unashamed before God (Coram Deo) and before each other (Coram Mundo).
Before the fall, God looked at the man and was fully satisfied with what He saw in him, the same with the woman. They were all clean and righteous.
They had done nothing to make themselves right before God, now with their disobedience, sin rears its head high. Their nakedness is now common knowledge. Not just that: they even feel an urgent need to cloth themselves—self-salvation.
A definitive self-salvation project is not Adam and Eve’s problem alone; it is our problem as well—all of us. We, just like them, also look for fig leaves to cover our nakedness. We seek a sense of rightness from under every rock and behind every tree.
In power, money, kids, spouses, beauty and appearance, style, a good name, respect, honour, knowledge, accomplishment and so on. When we seek these things, we are in away looking to restore the righteousness that we lost through Adam and Eve.
All but Insufficient
The Theologian Matthew Henry has called our clothes “badges of shame” because they are the evidence of our nakedness. They are a testimony that something is not right with us and needs to be covered.
Ironic as it may seem, Adam and his wife, though covered in fig leaves, still feel the weight of their nakedness. They still hide from God.
The fig leaves are insufficient to make them right before a Righteous and Holy God. The glory of God—or His ‘radiant character’ as Bishop Festo Kivengere would call it—still shines perfect through their garments of leaves thereby exposing their nakedness all the more.
We put on this garment of leaves to hide who we really are—guilty sinners who have by our disobedience forfeited the right standing that had been given to us as gift by God.
If anything, this passage shouts one thing: no striving inspired by our tears, sweat and blood can ever make us acceptable before a holy God. There is nothing we can do in our power to cloth ourselves.
On one occasion, Jesus tells the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke. 16:19-31), the rich man had spent all his life clothing himself in money and what it could get him. And he was eternally condemned, while Lazarus who sought God to cover him was laying in the bosom of Abraham, the father of all who believe (Gen 15:5).
In another place, a parable as well, Jesus narrates the story of a ruler who prepares diner and invites some ‘street-smart guests’ to come over and feast with him (Matt. 22:1-14). All guests, clad in party wear showed up except one who didn’t have party clothing. He had sewed his own coat of leaves and felt quite comfortable in it that he needed not the party attire, which was a pre-requisite to be at this dinner.
He was dragged out of the premises and thrown into a dark place where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The party attire is the righteousness that God gives to all who believe in His son—Jesus Christ.
At the cross, Jesus was stripped so that we will eternally be clothed. He gave up his honour so that we will one day stand honourable before God.
Paul, writing to Philippian Church had this to say: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:5-8)
By the unmerited grace of God, you have been clothed in an irremovable garment of salvation and righteousness. In Christ, who fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Law, God is now pleased with you. Your shame and guilt and fear have been cast away and God remembers your disobedience no more!