Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.(v.4-5) It could be that there’s a problem with Cain’s sacrifice. It may be that a blood sacrifice was required, as the word says in Hebrews 9:22, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Different Bible scholars teach it different ways. But without question there’s a problem with Cain’s heart. The way of Cain is identified in Jude 1:11 as a way that is polluted by a problem with the heart. We don’t know for certain what that problem is but a clue is given in Hebrews 11:4 where we’re told that By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. (Hebrews 11:4) We don’t know for certain what was at the heart of the issue, but Cain did, and God did. Two people standing next to each other in church, both singing the same praise song or hymn, perhaps God respects the worship of one but perhaps not the worship of another. Two give the same amount of tithe, perhaps God respects the giving of one but perhaps not the giving of the other. You and I may know that the same amount is given, we may hear the same song, but the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. (1 Chronicles 28:9)
So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (v. 5-7) Here we are, barely four chapters into the Bible, and God’s grace is manifested yet again when he comes to Cain. Adam and Eve were hiding after their sin, and God came looking to help them. Cain is angry, having sin in his heart, and God comes looking for him. God always comes looking for sinners, but, unfortunately, not all sinners go looking for God.
One thing we do know for sure is that Cain is angry. Often times behind anger lies jealousy, and always behind jealousy lies pride. Isn’t it amazing, the things that make us jealous? We get jealous because someone gets a cubicle that’s a little bigger than ours, or someone gets assigned a better parking space than we did, or someone’s son or daughter plays a sport better than ours does, or someone makes more money than we do. God help us. We each have a little bit of Cain within us, don’t we. We all want our desires to be God’s desires, and when God does what God does that’s not consistent with our own wants, how angry it can make us. Each of us thinks that we should have an immunity from the problems, unfairness, and injustices that everyone faces in life.
First cousins Willy and Georgie never got along well. Willy was especially envious of his cousin Georgie, which isn’t all that unusual among cousins. But the consequences of Willy’s jealousy and envy were different than those of other children, it carried on into adulthood and ultimately effected most of the world. You see cousin Willy was Kaiser Wilhelm II, ruler of Germany. And cousin Georgie was King George V of England. Cousin Willy, in his adult years, was jealous of cousin Georgie’s far flung British Empire. Also, at the annual yacht races Germany lost regularly to Britain which contributed to cousin Willie’s intense envy of the British navy. Many don’t realize the great extent to which Kaiser Wilhelm’s envy of his cousin George contributed to the start of World War I.
God in His mercy warned Cain that “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (v. 7) God is saying, don’t treat jealousy lightly. If you allow it to take up residence you’ll soon find yourself in the grip of a power greater than you thought possible. In Romans 12:15 God teaches us to rejoice with those who rejoice; and to mourn with those who mourn. But envy turns that all around. When we envy, or when we’re jealous we often rejoice when that certain person mourns and we mourn when that certain person rejoices. Therefore, rid yourselves of all envy. (1 Peter 2:1) Or you’ll find yourself doing things that you never thought you would do. I’ve lived it, I’ve been there, take heed. Rid yourself of it for who can stand before jealousy? (Proverbs 27:4) And envy rots the bones. (Proverbs 14:30)
If only Cain had responded differently. What might have happened had Cain asked God for His help. What might have happened if Cain had said, like David, Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love (Psalm 51:1) Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10) This is what Cain should have done. This is what you and I must do whenever we encounter anger, jealousy, pride, envy, or any other sin. We must return to the Father like the prodigal son. (see previous post) But Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. (Genesis 4:8)
Anger, jealousy, pride, envy, they’re all cousins. They’re all emotions that are related and intertwined with each other:
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
Robert K. Massie, Dreadnought
Photo from The Working Class blog