This week’s reading: Genesis 4:1-26
As we continue this story about the first humans, we will see that our choices have lasting consequences as the struggles can be passed down to our children. Adam and Eve have been exiled from the Garden of Eden by God’s Mercy, so that they may be able to appreciate the Light by having to experience the darkness for some time. God has not given up on Humanity, because He had already planned to send the Seed of Eve to redeem the world…but in the meantime, Humanity must learn the hard way what true good and real evil are all about. Today we move on to the first more prominent sons of Adam and Eve to see what effect sin can have on us humans. We are in Genesis chapter 4 and will be reading the whole chapter to verse 26. Listen to the caution God gives Cain, and to us still:
“Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, would 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.” Gen 4:6-7 NIV
Choices. As I have said many times, Love requires that we have the ability to make our own choices or it is not real love. This is why God placed that Second Tree in the Garden of Eden, and it is why He does not force us to go one way or the other. We must all decide for ourselves who we will follow. Will we cater to our fallen Flesh or will we lean on God so that we can follow Him instead? One of the ways we can tell which one of these choices we are making on any given day, is to pay attention to what we do. Our inner attitudes can be revealed by the amount of times we choose to forsake our Prideful MMI, or give in to it. As we grow, we will give into the old person less and will act more and more like Jesus instead. This is the whole point of becoming born again, to be different than who we used to be. And the only way we can do this is by God’s Grace. And so we must pay attention to our actions to see who they are reflecting, that Prideful MMI or the humble Jesus. Jesus Himself said that we will know a tree by its fruit. (Mt 7:16) First, of course, we cannot come to a conclusion of such deep truth as to other people’s heats by only watching someone during one instance. We all have bad days. We all are fallible humans. We all are still learning, growing and becoming who we will be. Second, we must watch ourselves more than we watch others, for the simple reason that we cannot change them. We can, and should be, praying for others, but change? As I said a moment ago, only God can do this and only as we humble ourselves and work with Him. So we must pay attention to ourselves to gauge our own progress, giving ourselves, just like we should for others, mercy when we mess up in one single instance. Yet, if we watch ourselves long enough, we should be able to tell if Jesus is the Lord of our lives or not. Again I say, “watch ourselves.” I believe God is much more concerned with the heart that is right in front of Him than the others that might not be. So many times I have come to God with one complaint or another about others, but God always brings it back to me. Not because I am the only one causing the problem, but because I am the one seeking Him and His help. This is exactly what Jesus was talking about with the whole “take the log out of your own eye before you attempt to take the speck out of the other guy’s eye” thing. (Mt 7:5) When we are aware of our own faults, flaws and failures, we are better equipped to humbly help others with their own set of fallenness. Humility is the key, of course, thus we must work with God to mature us into the Humility of Christ. It is only as we come, stay and remain in Christ that God is the one Who transforms us into His likeness. And so, while we can clearly see the different attitudes between Cain and Abel, instead of spending our time judging Cain, let’s see what we can learn from him so that we do not fall into the same trap that he chose to fall into.
Cain worked hard. The Bible says that, “Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.” (Gen 4:2b) Both occupations are very difficult. They both require lots of time, effort and energy in order to have success. I think though that there is a certain open door for Pride when we are working with our own hands, and bringing forth products that seem to come only from our hands. For example, farming like Cain did. We plant a seed and work the land and only after all our effort do we see the crop grow. Yet do we tend to forget that God created the soil? Do we fail to remember it is God Who gave us the seed in the first place? Do we dismiss the fact that God must provide the water, sunshine and even the nutrients from manure so the seeds might grow? And even after all that, God still must make the seeds grow into healthy plants and vegetables so that they may nourish our bodies, because there is really nothing we can do to force those seeds to bring the crop out of them. Yes, we work the soil, by God’s Grace, because He must give us the ability to do so, but do we pat ourselves on the back, thinking “it was all me!”? Do we still think that we are the source of whatever we have achieved, whatever we own, whatever intelligence we have? Here’s a healthy pill of humility for us: we do not have anything, nor can we do anything, apart from God. (see Dt 8:18; Jn 15:5) Still there is something about working with our own hands that takes the focus off of our Creator and Sustainer, and places them squarely on MMI. I think this is Cain’s problem here and why God does not accept his offering. That attitude that “I made this with my own hands,” can be seen throughout the Bible and it always ends in tragedy. I think it is important for us to stop and take a look at our own lives here. What project have you completed lately where you patted your own back at your incredible accomplishment? Did that bring you closer to God or further away? I am not saying we cannot celebrate our achievements, but we must do so humbly, in balance, not forgetting our Lord Who is The Source. We must first give thanks to God Who empowered us to be able to do what we did. God gives us the opportunity, the insight, the resources, the health even, to be able to reach any goal. I think Cain forgets this here and instead of learning the lesson, he digs deeper into his Pride. May we learn to examine our hearts as we enjoy all we do in this world, giving thanks for all we have, so that we can remain humble before our God and truly attain real success.
Get angry or get humble. When others perform better than we do, do we sincerely congratulate them? Do we seek their advice so we can learn from their success? Do we desire to aim higher for ourselves? Or do we want to “kill” the one who did well? I love the verses I mentioned above (Gen 4:6-7), because this tells me there is a certain time where we can choose to go one way or the other. We can choose Humility or Pride. We can choose to learn or to think we already know it all. We can choose to be proud of the other person for what they did or hate them because we did not do the same. We know what Cain chose…and sadly, what many people choose today as well. And my Friends, before we get full of ourselves, we who follow Jesus are not immune to this tendency either. Life is a learning process and so, many times we might find ourselves a lot more immature than we thought we were. This was certainly my story a couple of years ago. Instead of being kind, I began displaying a rude and unloving anger towards those who were a bit different than me. While I did not physically kill anyone, how many reputations did I attempt to murder? Words hurt. Words have power. Words can turn others away from Jesus, instead of closer to Him. Sadly, I was not watching my words and may have caused some lasting problems. It was only by God’s Grace that I began seeing this ugliness within me, and again by God’s Grace, that I began running to His side to take it away from me. Anger can be such an awful and unloving way to live. It is the complete opposite of what God desires for His children. This type of anger is self-centered. I am not talking about righteous anger that moves us to find solutions to the injustices of this world. I am referring to Cain’s kind of anger. The mentality that says, “You are making me look bad, feel bad about myself, etc, etc, and so I will just get rid of you by belittling and killing your character.” And sadly, yes, sometimes this evil mind set will lead to actual murder. Cain becomes the first assassin on earth. When we choose to hold on to bitterness and unforgiveness and selfish anger, consuming hatred is close at our heals, crouching at the door to our heart. The truth is, we should only be in competition with ourselves. The goal is to be better today than I was yesterday, knowing that I am not quite as good as I will be tomorrow. Growth is a process, but if we allow Pride to rule over us, then how can we master this sin that is trying to take over?
One problem often just leads to another. So Cain kills his brother out of jealousy, revealing the hatred in his heart. Instead of changing HIS ways, he decides to get rid of Abel so there was no one to compare himself with. Comparing ourselves to others is a big problem that always leads to other trouble. God created each of us to be unique and special. God has designed a distinctive plan for each of us. What you can do, I cannot. What I can do, you cannot. We each come with our own set of experiences and understanding about them, so we each bring our own perspective and creativity to what we are doing. To compare ourselves with others is kind of silly. And here’s the truth, our standard is not other human beings. Our Standard is Jesus. And who can compare to Him?! So instead, we must learn to choose to come to Him and learn WHO we are in Christ. We must learn to choose to stay with Him and understand where we are now and where God is leading us. We must learn to choose to abide, or remain, in Him so that we will have access to whatever we need, whenever we need it and to do whatever He leads us to do. Come, stay and abide. This is the way to grow so that we move away from our old, sinful person and towards acting like the New Person we now are in Christ. Cain chose to push God away and death was the result. Not only for Abel, but for himself too. God moves him away from the rest of the family and the land he had known and worked all his life. Fear is the first sign of this disconnect and evidence that he had allowed sin to master him, instead of the other way around. You see, we are not only choosing between Humility and Pride, but also between Faith and Fear. These are complete polar opposites. So when we pridefullychoose sin, we are not humbly walking by Faith and fear is what is left. Cain complains to God, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” (Gen 4:13-14) Cain made the wrong choice, just like his parents did, and this leads to another problem. You see, death was not something God ever wanted us humans to experience. But when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, allowing sin to enter into our world, death, the wages of sin, came along with it. (Ro 6:23) Yet even with this death, humans were to die “of old age” as the term goes…but here we have Cain causing the death of his brother! This is a whole other kind of problem. Choosing Pride over Humility always leads to problems…which often leads to more problems. Something must stop this cycle…or rather, Someone.
Fear of death. This is human’s number one fear, isn’t it? And it is the first fear that attacked Cain. He was obviously unaware of God’s Omnipresent Nature, thinking that God was not present anywhere other than where Cain had lived, and so Cain believed that he would no longer be under the protection of God and feared someone would kill him. Do we also not know Who God is and think He cannot possibly save us from our current trial? Our number one focus in this life should be to get to know Him, deeper and deeper, so that, when fear tries to raise its ugly head, we can counter it with the knowledge of Who our God is. So let’s say someone offends you greatly. Do you try to get them back, fearing your reputation will be belittled if you do nothing? Or do you allow God to vindicate you because God is our Avenger? (see Ro 12:19) Do we see it? The more we know Who our God is, the more we can choose humility and trust Him to do the right thing. Again, I think the major problem here is that Cain does not know his God at all. At that time, there were no other humans on the earth except his brothers and sisters, so Cain may have thought that these siblings would seek revenge for killing their beloved brother. And while he would be wandering around, outside of God’s jurisdiction, God would not be able to protect him, and they would kill him in return. Or it could be that Cain did not understand that there were no other humans on the planet yet. I find the following explanation very interesting and in line with the mentality that Cain was clueless about the God he was supposed to be worshipping. Listen: “But others, with more probability, think that Cain’s was a vain apprehension. How could he know that Adam and his family were the sole inhabitants of the earth? Naturally he expected to find farther on what he had left behind; a man and woman with stalwart sons: and that these, regarding him as an interloper come to rob them, and seeing in his ways proof of guilt, would at once attack and slay him.” (this is from Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers) Whatever Cain was thinking, it seems like he finally realized that God is a God of Justice, and that there were serious consequences to his sin. When we turn from God, dismissing His warnings, fear and death are the only results. So we must ask ourselves: is there anything in our own lives that God has been cautioning us about, but we are refusing to listen? Let’s learn from Cain, shall we? Wrong prideful choices lead to problems, which lead to more problems. The only way to stop this harmful cycle is to humbly choose repentance and turn back to God. Only by God’s Grace can any of our selfish choices be worked together for our good…because our God is Good.
Always choose to humbly learn. It takes humility to learn, do we see that? Pride always says, “I know!” But the truth is, there will always be something that we do not know, especially when it comes to the spiritual things. We think we are so mature, but it is when we face a trial we did not see coming, where we learn how immature we still are! And this is ok, so long as we choose to humbly learn from the challenge. If we choose to pridefully hate the person or situation or whatever instead, then we are not learning from Cain. And here’s the beauty, my Friends, we can learn from everyone, the godless, as well as the godly. Never dismiss those you think are unbelievers because they very well may be the person that will help you the most to love the way Jesus loves! Never forget, Jesus loved us when we were still enemies of God. (Ro 5:10) It is the unloveable people in our lives that can teach us the best lessons about godly love. I am certainly not advocating putting ourselves into dangerous situations. That’s NOT what I am saying at all. But we cannot isolate ourselves from those that may be different than we are and think we know how to love others. I will leave you with the words of Jesus: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” (Lk 6:32-35) Cain thought Abel was his enemy and he pridefully chose not to love his “enemy.” May we humbly choose to love everyone, enemy or not, and trust God to sort it all out. This is my current lesson on Love and Humility from God, and the more I choose to remain at His side and stay humble, the more peaceful and joyful my life gets. Want that? Then won’t you join me?
Until we meet again, keep lifting your eyes to God, He’s closer than you think.
<>< Peace, Diane
(For more on Cain in the Bible see Heb 11:4, 1Jn 3:12, Jude 1:11)