“My Brother’s Keeper” by Ronnie T. Tres Reyes. Top Five finalist, 2008 Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office “Isang Pitik sa Charity” photo contest. Reyes describes his photo: “Taken one chilly night outside a McDonald’s along Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City. For over a year, this five year old boy has been taking care of his baby brother every night on the steps of the restaurant. Sometimes he lies on the concrete and allows himself to be the baby’s bed and source of warmth.”
Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Am I my brother’s keeper?” (v. 9) Cain’s insolent answer to God’s question reminds us of the same condition of heart found in Pharaoh when he said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him…” (Exodus 5:2) The difference is that Pharaoh didn’t have a direct awareness and communication with God like Cain did. Given the level of direct communication that Cain enjoyed with God, it’s hard to believe that Cain could answer God with such hardness of heart. But that’s one of the consequences of sin. Cain committed the first recorded murder, and his sin had the effect of hardening his heart toward God, causing him to question. Questioning God’s ways is no more rational than not obeying God in the first place. Listen to what God said to Job and his friends when they questioned Him:
“Who is this that darkens my counsel
with words without knowledge?
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
“Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?
“Have you ever given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place,
that it might take the earth by the edges
and shake the wicked out of it?” (Job 38:2-13)
“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
Let him who accuses God answer him!” (Job 40:2)
Lord please keep our hearts tender toward You, keep us from questioning Your will, help us to give thanks in everything. (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Lord, please keep our hearts tender toward others, keep us far from the way of Cain. (Jude 1:11)
Am I my brother’s keeper?” (v. 9) The way of guilt is to deny responsibility. The truth is that God has in fact made us our brother’s keeper. God tells you and I that each of us should look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4) Notice that Philippians 2:4 instructs us to take care of our own responsibilities as well as those of others. Taking care of ourselves, our own family, our own brothers and sisters in the Lord, and also others, it’s all part of God’s plan for you and for me. Matthew Henry writes that caring for others is, “a great duty, which is strictly required of us, but is generally neglected by us.”
The church is God’s instrument to minister to the poor, the sick, the lonely, and the old of our world.
You are the church.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Blue Letter Bible