Most of us are familiar with the story of Cain and Able. If you’ve ever opened the Bible with the intent to read the whole thing cover to cover you’ve at least made it that far without giving up. You maybe sat through Sunday school class and learned about “the evil Cain.” We have been ingrained that Cain was just the evil, no good, son of Adam who killed his brother, but there is so much more that can be pulled out of this short story outside of the first major crime scene to ever happen. Lets see if we cant pull out a few gems of knowledge, together, that maybe we never took into consideration.
Love vs Apathy
When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Able also brought a gift – the best portion of the firstborn lambs from his flock… – Genesis 4:3-4
Lets be honest. Cain probably didn’t think he was doing anything wrong here, and really had it not have been for the 4th verse we wouldn’t have either. If we took out the fact that Able brought his best, and we skipped to God rejecting Cain’s gift we probably would have been thinking, “seriously God? That’s messed up.” In fact some of us may still feel that way. I mean, at least he was doing what he was suppose to right? At least he was giving a gift to God, right? Let me give you a pop quiz:
You walk past a homeless man sitting outside of a cafe begging for a few bucks. Do you:
- A. Yell at the man to get a job.
- B. Walk past and not make eye contact.
- C. Throw the man a dollar bill.
- D. Take a video of yourself handing him a $100 bill.
- E. Go into the cafe and buy him a sandwich.
So which one would you do? Be honest with yourself. Take a moment and really think about the last time you saw a homeless person, what did you do? Now, what if I told you that there is a proverbial verse 4 that I left out. I know, I tricked you, but here is the verse 4 of this questionnaire.
-Take the man into the cafe, not being concerned with who sees you with him. Offer the man to order anything he wants. Whatever, he orders get it doubled, in case he’s just being humble. Sit down with the man and have a conversation letting him talk about himself.
I already heard you before you thought to yourself.
That’s just unreasonable.
I don’t have time for that.
How do I even know the man would want that.
Congratulations, you’ve just experienced the same level of apathy that Cain exhibited in his gift giving. We’ve all done it, and we will all continue to do it. I doubt anyone reading this will forever invite every homeless person they meet out to lunch. I know that is unreasonable. We’d all go broke if we did that. It is just an example, but maybe something to consider doing from time to time. I can see that I’m slightly veering from the topic so let me straiten the wheel again.
but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. (5)
I find it very interesting that carelessly gift giving is suddenly turned to anger when it is rejected. We’ve all been there. We forgot to get someone a gift, and at last second we end up at a drug store trying to find something to seem somewhat unique. Something that looks like we put a little thought into it, when really the only thought we put into it was our own selfish attempt to save face with a last second gift.
“Oh, a summer sausage, and some fancy chocolate. 90% cacao? You shouldn’t have.” we hear from the receiver of the gift through a photo fake smile.
We smile and sigh with relief that they reacted kindly to the gift, but then your other friend shows up. Where as your gift was thrown in a cheap gift bag (gray, because it was the only color that was left), their’s is in a shiny wrapping paper. It is clear that they even took time in the wrapping because the folds are perfect. The receiver open it, carefully, respecting the beautiful wrapping job. Their eyes light up with joy as they see the amazingly thoughtful gift that your friend had given them. A tear even rolls down their cheek because they are so happy. They run over and give your other friend a huge hug and repeat, “thank you so much,” half a dozen times. You can’t help but feel a little annoyed that your gift sits back in the same bag it was pulled out of, barely even touched. You are angry, because your scheme got ruined by someone who actually took the effort to show that they care. Your apathy was exposed by someone else’s love.
Of course God sees that Cain is upset and knows that this is a path down a slippery slope, so he decides to use this teachable moment.
“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” (6-7)
I wonder how much time has been spent contemplating the gravity of these verses. When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil things weren’t so complicated. Sin had not been introduced to the world before, so the command was easy. Just don’t do it. Should have been easy enough to follow through with, but as we found out, they didn’t choose to listen. Now, Cain, who is facing a crisis of identity is starting to feel like he is inferior. He is starting to feel jealousy. He is starting to feel contempt. All of these new feelings that his parents had cursed him with the ability to feel, and he doesn’t know what to do with them. God, seeing this torment, knows that all of these feelings are what lead to sin. Like a good parent God sits down with Cain to have a heart to heart. He wants Cain to understand that he isn’t hopeless. He wants Cain to know that he can still do good. He wants Cain to know that there is a choice to act out of love or act with sin. He is trying to convince Cain to resist sin.
There is something else going on here. God knows what’s to come. He knows the decision that is about to happen, but he doesn’t want to directly control it. He doesn’t want to tell Cain. “Listen, I know you are about to kill your brother, so don’t.” It is the first time in history we could ask ourselves why God lets bad things happen. Right? He may encourage against, they might break His heart, but He still allows them to happen. It would be fair, under our own human understanding, to ask why God would let the son who is falling into sin kill the son that he favored. The excuse of “too many people in the world” gets ruled out pretty quickly. There were 4. I am sure God had no trouble keeping tabs on them. Obviously there isn’t a sound answer to this within these verses, but I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that this is where we originally see that there are times that God will not directly intervene. So what does happen? What does Cain decide?
Anger to Murder
One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” and while they were in the fields, Cain attacked his brother, Able, and killed him. (8)
At this point it’s not clear how much consideration Cain gave to God’s heart to heart. Some people hear the words of God and listen; others do not. In a horrific example of free will we find that Cain does not listen. He instead allows sin to overcome him. He lets what started out as apathy, turn to anger, and then turn into jealousy towards his brother. In his jealousy he figured if you can’t beat him…beat him to death. I am sure we all think we are better than Cain. How could you kill your brother? The judgement just starts rolling in doesn’t it.
But this isn’t just a story about an evil murderer. This is a story of a man who started out by apathetically giving gifts to God. A man just like you or me. A man who knows God; who even thinks he’s doing a good enough job at giving thanks to God. He didn’t start out evil, he just started out careless. This is a story about how quick we can succumb to sin if we are not ever-vigilant with our worship and praise to the Lord. This is a story that we can all relate to because we have all fallen from grace. This is a story we should all take warning in because maybe the sin you live in isn’t murder. Maybe its lust, pride, or greed. It starts with a suggestive glance. It starts with a simple victory we claim as our own. It starts with a few well placed dollars into a flourishing investment. All sin starts out seemingly insignificant, and that is why the enemy loves to whisper. It is sometimes easier to start an avalanche with the vibrations of a whisper than it is with a handful of explosives. Do your part, listen to God, and do what is right, so that when sin comes creeping in you can nip it in the bud before it grows out of control.