Christian or not, nearly everyone has heard of the story of Cain and Abel. As with so many of the popular Bible stories, there are some misconceptions and “misrememberances” on my part and maybe on yours. The story starts in Genesis 4 right after the fall of man and Adam and Eve’s removal from the Garden of Eden.
Abel was Cain’s little brother – Eve gave birth to two sons, Cain first and then Abel. The thing that struck me when reading this is that Cain, as the third person on earth, continues right where his parents left off and commits a horrendous sin – murdering his own little brother. It is a hard thing thing to imagine such an act, but of course, it happens to this day. The track record of the first three people on Earth really does highlight the fact that all of humanity is fallen and sin-ridden as stated in Ecclesiastes and later on in Genesis.
20 Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.
– Ecclesiastes 7:20
Both Cain and Abel gave gifts to the Lord – Both siblings were obedient to the Lord and gave gifts of their hard work. Cain was a farmer and gave “fruits of the soil” (Genesis 4:3). Abel was a herdsman and brought the “fat portions from some of the firstborn of flock” (Genesis 4:4). God liked Abel’s offering more because he gave what is known as the “First Fruits” – an early phrase that meant reserve the first and the best of your labor as a thankful sacrifice for God.
2 take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the Lord your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name
– Dueteronomy 26:2
The Lord lovingly rebuked Cain for his actions and his anger – When Cain discovered that he should have given the best of his harvest, he was “very angry and his face was downcast” (Genesis 4:5). Instead of being angry with Cain, the Lord gently implores him to do what is right. God knew what letting sin in would do – what harboring anger for someone will lead to.
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 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 rule over it.”
– Genesis 4:6-7
But, Cain did it anyway – How many times do we find ourselves doing this? We know what we should do and we choose not to. Paul laments this in Romans 7:15 – you can almost feel Paul’s frustration with himself. Later in the New Testament, Peter reiterates God’s warning about sin and it’s crouching in the form of the devil. I am sure that Cain did not set out to murder his brother because of his own pride, but he did. God’s warning about letting sin sneak into our lives is one of the most important things we need to heed.
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
– 1 Peter 5:8
Confession, repentance and forgiveness – Once the evil was done, God broke out the oft repeated parenting practice of asking a question for which He already knew the answer. Unlike his parents, Cain was indignant and did not confess to God. He also did not seem very repentant until after God determined his punishment. Cain was very much like a young child who was more concerned with the punishment received than the crime committed. In a second example for us of God’s love, He chose to forgive Cain. God did not, however, decide to let Cain off the hook. He condemned Cain to live the life of his brother in his place – to become a shepherd rather than a farmer – maybe as a daily reminder of what he had done.
What we need to Remember
1) We are creatures born with a sinful nature. Because of this, God sent His only son, Jesus Christ, to this earth, to lead a perfect sin-free life and to be persecuted and die for our sins. Jesus then rose from the grave three days later, concurring death. He later ascended to heaven and now sits at the right hand of His father.
17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
– Romans 6:17-18
2) We need to offer our first and our best to God as a sacrifice, a thank you, to honor God for his loving kindness.
37 Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
– Matthew 22:37
3) Sin is a dangerous thing to play around with because it leads to death.
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
– Romans 6:23