The story of Cain and Abel is one of the most well-known and intriguing stories in the Bible. This story raises many questions, not the least of which is what caused Cain to kill his brother Abel.
Family in turmoil is something we have all seen at one time or another. I have seen families split over property disputes, marriages, wills, and vacations gone wrong. These circumstances are simply the fruit, but not the root that drove these families apart.
The real cause of family feuds? The offended party wanted something they did not receive. They wanted the property line to favor them, they wanted their sister to remain single and reliant upon them, and they wanted mom’s ring.
The bottom line, Cain wanted something as well…
You see, God was more concerned with a heart of obedience than the best offerings man could create. Unfortunately, being deprived of recognition and respect, Cain developed a hatred and an evil bitterness that lead to eventual murder.
Tragic? Yes! Uncommon? No! In our hearts and minds, we often find ourselves longing for the same!
James 4:1-2 says, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war…”.
Cain’s desire for approval, acceptance, and praise drove him to kill his only brother.
Today I would like to look at some warning signs from this passage in Genesis to see if we might be losing the same battle in our hearts and minds.
1. Our Countenance (4:6)
A fallen countenance was a sign of sadness, disappointment, or anger. In the case of Cain, his countenance fell because he was angry and resentful towards God for not accepting his offering.
Cain’s fallen countenance is an important detail in the story because it sets the stage for the tragic events that follow. We may think our inward struggles are hidden, and they could be from man, but not from God.
How is your countenance before Him?
2. Our Thought Patterns (4-5)
God favored Abel’s offering of livestock over Cain’s offering of crops. This favoritism may have been enough to trigger Cain’s jealousy and envy, leading to his violent act.
It is important to note that Cain had a choice in how he responded to God’s favoritism, but he chose to act on his negative thoughts and emotions.
“How could God…?”. “I am every bit as good as my brother…!”.
The most commonly cited reason for Cain’s murder of Abel is jealousy and envy. That jealousy and envy started with negative thought patterns against God and man.
3. Our Reasoning (3-4)
Cain had a difficult time watching his brother’s success and coming up empty on his alter. He knew he wasn’t the farmer type but thought his gardening expertise would pay off in the end. He knew God would love his fruit even though the standard of an animal sacrifice had been set (3:21). He worked the soil and did everything he could to yield the best crops to give to God, but it was not enough (our works outside of God’s plan are never enough. Ephesians 2:8-9).
The Bible is full of examples of people who give multiple reasons to justify their actions. The most difficult to read is of those who said, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” (Matt. 7:22).
4. Gods Warning (7)
Cain’s lack of self-control contributed to his actions. The Bible states that God warned Cain that sin was crouching at his door, but Cain did not listen. This lack of self-control made it difficult for Cain to resist his negative thoughts and emotions, leading him to act out violently.
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (I Cor. 10:13).
This story and these few verses of Cain and Abel prove a cautionary warning about the dangers of negative emotions and ignoring God’s desires. Cain’s murder of his brother Abel was a tragic event that was caused by a combination of factors, including jealousy, anger, and lack of self-control. As we reflect on this story, let us strive to live in obedience to God and resist the negative emotions that can lead us down the path of destruction.