The initial innocence in the Garden of Eden is undeniable. Like little babes, Adam and Eve were free of the knowledge of good and evil. Prior to partaking of the forbidden tree, consider how the Lord chooses to emphasize their innocence, “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:25).
The serpent tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit with the idea that “their eyes would be opened … knowing good from evil.” (Gen. 3:5). Eve realized the fruit was “desirable to make one wise” (Gen. 3:6b), so Eve ate, then Adam. At that moment, everything changed. Their innocence was lost. They now knew right from wrong, good from evil.
Once “the eyes of both them were opened” (Gen. 3:7a), what was the first thing they knew? Of all things, the text simply says, “…they knew that they were naked…” (Gen. 3:7b). What was the first thing they did with this new knowledge? The text simply continues, “…and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (Gen. 3:7b). How different are the actions of many men and women today when naked, particularly among disciples of Jesus Christ?
A little later in the day, God, walking in the garden, finds that they had “hid themselves from” His presence (Gen. 3:8). Wearing his fig leaf, Adam explains, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Gen. 3:10). What an incredible contrast to those who choose to walk about in equivalent garments today, whether as a singer or a dancer strutting on a stage, an athlete competing in a sport, a cheerleader cheering an event, an actor exposed on a screen, or a man or woman walking on a beach! Where both Adam and Eve were naked and ashamed, hiding from the presence of God in fear, many today boldly proclaim their nakedness as fashion, function and freedom.
Since God chose to emphasize Adam and Eve’s newfound knowledge of good and evil with their nakedness, their shame, their fear and their hiding themselves, it is right to emphasize three simple things as disciples today.
First, God never denies the reason for the shame they felt—their nakedness. He very clearly connects it to their newfound knowledge of good and evil, when He says, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” (Gen. 3:11). Why is it today that, even in the face of clear commands to modesty in the New Testament, and many other passages throughout scripture emphasizing both shamefacedness and nakedness, that disciples choose to deny the idea that being insufficiently clothed in public constitutes nakedness and is thus wrong?
Second, it is necessary to acknowledge that nakedness was not just a problem with women. Adam was naked too, and he knew it. Too frequently and perhaps because of New Testament teaching, women are emphasized regarding nakedness and modesty. Adam and Eve’s experience in the garden strongly contradicts any such naivety. A man can be just as naked as a woman, and disciples should thus act accordingly.
Third, God clothed them. They were clothed in fig leaves (ḥǎḡô·rā(h), Hebrew), which is the equivalent of a modern day pair of underwear. Before they left the garden, God made and clothed them with “tunics of skin” (kǔt·tōʹ·něṯ, Hebrew), the equivalent of a long shirt-like covering to their knees. The reason for the need for different clothing may be debated, but since God placed the emphasis on their nakedness, which was obviously not addressed by the fig leaf Adam had made, a primary reason for the new attire must have been to cover that nakedness. The clothing God had made, at least to the degree we can determine that it covered both Adam and Eve, should thus inform a disciple’s clothing choices today.
It is expected that the children of this world, who have not taken up their crosses to follow Jesus, will dress in clothing that covers little more than what Adam and Eve made for themselves in the garden. For a disciple of Christ, it is simply shameful. This author did not choose what was revealed in the story of the garden of Eden, nor what was covered, but it would be unwise for any disciple to ignore what God chose to emphasize regarding man’s most fundamental knowledge of good and evil. Oh that God, and not the world, would inform each disciple’s ideas of being naked and being clothed, in every situation and setting!