Genesis 3:17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
Sometimes we read a Scripture that just doesn’t seem to make sense and may even seem contradictory to how we understand life. One such verse is found in the above verse in Genesis 3:17. It all seems okay until we get to the highlighted portion of the verse. We expect God to judge man for his sinful acts of disobedience so the curse of the ground seems right, but the addition of the phrase “for thy sake” just doesn’t seem to fit. It is because of what we do not know that makes it seem like a displaced phrase. It would seem that if God wanted to do something for man that He would have made it easier, yet God did just the opposite and made it harder.
In order for the verse to make sense you need to put it in context with God’s plan for man. Go back to Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. God did not intend that man would be completed by simply forming a body and breathing life into him. His plan is far more complex and wonderful than that. The making of man’s body was but a part of the creation of man. Remaining was the completion of his soul and spirit. Notice the different words used to describe His work. First, He “created time and space” (make something out of nothing) and then He made man (fashioned a body out of the dust He had already created. We know that because the Scriptures uses different words to describe His work (Created and made). Further, we know that because of the description of the finished product. Man would be made in the image of God, that in the similitude of God, or in a similar way. The Bible teaches that God is a Trinity which means that God is known in three persons (God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit), yet there is only one God. The best illustration that I know of a trinity is that we are also a trinity. I have a body, but that is not all there is to me. I also have a soul containing my mind and will, yet that does not include all there is to me either. Thirdly, I have a spirit and yet that is not the whole of me. It takes all three; body, soul and spirit, to describe the whole of the person I am. I am body, soul and spirit, yet there is only one of me. I am made in the image or similitude of God.
Secondly, God said that we were to be made in the likeness of God. We know that Adam and Eve sinned and that event changed man from a man without sin to a slave of sin. His will was no longer to serve God but it had been changed to serve himself because the very nature of sin is to reject the authority of God and to make ourselves the authority that governs our lives. God is great enough to make a way when there was no way to redeem man. The damage was done and now God had the task of redeeming fallen man and then to complete His image and likeness within man so that his conduct would be in complete agreement with the nature of God.
To complete God’s likeness will require man to undergo a complete overhaul from a rebellious selfish being into a new creation of God (2 Corinthians 56:17). Man now must be confronted with his sin and see it for what it is. The truth of sin is horrible for sin is a degenerating, destructive, degrading, deforming, decaying, and deliberate attack on the authority of God. That nature must die in order for new life to begin. We will not reject sin until we see it for what it is and reject it like a poisonous snake.
At this point we are now ready to choose for ourselves who and what will reign over us. Just as in the garden of Eden there are two choices, The Tree of Life (Jesus) or the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Satan). You will choose one or the other as there is no other choice (Romans 6:16). To choose Jesus you will follow Him by faith in Him and His Word. Once this choice is made, God promises to lay all the charges against you on Jesus; you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide you and to teach you; and you receive the promise of New Life through this world and for eternity.
So getting back to the original question of why is the curse for our benefit. It is because it is the problems of life that God uses to teach us His ways and His truth. Without them we would have no way of discovering the consequence of sin and turning from it. I learn more from my mistakes and failures than I do from my successes. As I build my life on truth, righteousness and knowledge I begin to take on the appearance of my new life. Without the struggles we would never let go of sin.