Am I my brother’s keeper?
How many times have we said that? And if you haven’t said it, I know you’ve thought it. Did you know it came from the bible’s story of Cain and Abel?
Cain and Abel were the sons of Adam and Eve. Cain, the oldest, farmed the land. His younger brother tended the sheep. One day, for whatever reason, they wanted to meet with God. Back then, if you wanted a meeting with God, you better bring a darn good gift with you. We can only assume God made clear the offering requirements to the family. What they were, we don’t know.
What we do know is Abel brings his offering from the first-born of his flock. And God is pleased. Cain brings his offering from the fruits of the field. And God is not pleased.
It’s never spelled out what the difference was in the offerings, so we are left to interpret this ourselves. My guess is God’s favor was dependent on what kind of attitude accompanied the gift. Perhaps Abel followed the rules and presented his gift of worship with humility and a genuine heart. Perhaps Cain begrudgingly offered his gift or thought it was good enough…in his opinion.
But whatever the reason, Cain’s true character is revealed when God refuses his offering and tells him he should have done it right the first time. In a fit a jealously, Cain persuades his brother into taking a walk in the fields with him and then…we all know what happens…Cain kills Abel. Yes, you could say Cain has an attitude problem. And some anger issues to go along with it.
When God finds him and asked the whereabouts of Abel (a rhetorical question), he lies. Did he really think God didn’t already know what had happened? And to top it off, he gets a little snarky and adds the question, “am I my brother’s keeper?”
It’s never a good idea to get snarky with the Creator of the Universe. Instead of striking him dead there on the spot for murder, lying and back talking, he banishes Cain from his homeland to restlessly wander the rest of his life. Cain, in a moment of self pity cries that he hopes someone will find and kill him. But in true poetic justice, God puts some kind of protection around Cain so no one will kill him and put him out of his misery.
Evidently God thought having to live with his crime was punishment enough for Cain. And to make sure he thought about it every day for the rest of his life, he prohibited anyone from taking their own vengeance against him.
But Cain had an attitude problem from the very beginning. The sacrifice offering gift God wanted was a humble spirit and repentant heart. He will not accept a meeting with us if it’s not genuine. God looks at the condition of our hearts, not the outward appearance that begins with our own mind’s eye.
Submitted for ABC Wednesday