My Brother's Keeper

My Brother’s Keeper

Genesis 1 reveals the origin of the world we live in. Life is not an accident or an evolutionary process, but comes from the Eternal Living God. Genesis 2 describes who we are and what sets humans apart from the rest of creation. Genesis 3 explains what went wrong and why the world we live in is so full of evil. Genesis 4 picks up where Genesis 3 ends. Let’s see what we can learn from it.

Let’s look at Genesis 4:1-17.

Here we find Adam and Eve begin a family. Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden, but God gave them hope. God promised that someday a child would be born who would overcome the evil that had been loosed by mankind. Here is what God told the devil.

Gen 3:15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."

Adam and Eve have a baby. Eve is excited and names the little boy, Cain. Then a second son, Abel, is born. The two boys grow up and choose different careers. Abel becomes a shepherd, while Cain becomes a farmer. In the course of time, both began seeking God.

Somehow, Cain and Abel knew that worship is hollow and empty without giving. So they each brought offerings to God. Cain, the farmer, brought the fruit of his harvest. Abel, the herdsman, killed and 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.

Why the difference in God’s response? After all, isn’t all religion the same? Isn’t one expression of worship just as good as another? Apparently, God doesn’t think so!

Cain offered the fruit of his labors. Abel sacrificed a life. There is a qualitative difference. It is sort of like that old joke about the pig and the chicken. They saw a sign requesting produce for a ham and egg benefit breakfast. The chicken suggested they help out. “That‘s easy for you to say,” replied the pig. “For you that’s a donation. For me it’s a sacrifice.”

Easy, cheap, or convenient worship seldom impresses God. Remember what King David said when Araunah the Jebusite offered him everything he needed to make an offering to God?

2 Sam 24:24 “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing”.

Moreover, there is another factor that made Abel’s offering more acceptable.

Heb 9:22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Sin demands life—the sinners or a substitute. A bloodless sacrifice cheapens sin. God was trying to teach that lesson to Cain. He was preparing mankind for the Blood Atonement of the true Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. The New Testament explains the difference between Cain and Abel this way.

Hebrews 11:4 says, “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.”

Abel’s offering was the overflow of his faith in God.

1 John 3:12 warns, “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.”

There is a lesson here we don’t want to miss. Cain knew that God wasn’t pleased. What is a person do when that happens? He can own up to the problem. He can acknowledge the error, ask for forgiveness, and pledge to do better the next time. He could! Or he can get mad and blame others for his problems. He can blame God. He can feel sorry for himself. That’s what Cain chose to do.

The Lord offers Cain some advice. “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.”

God was trying, just as He still does today, to reach Cain’s heart and warn him concerning his sin. God was giving Cain a chance to confess and repent, but Cain would not. God’s words to Cain carry a warning for each of us about sin—it desires to have you.

Hebrews 12:5-6 “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

Don’t get mad if God corrects you. He wants us to learn from our mistakes. God is treating you as a son. If Cain had responded correctly to God’s words, he could have made an acceptable offering the next time. God knew what the problem was when He asked Cain, “why are you angry and why has your countenance fallen?” God will always give us an opportunity to confess why we are acting the way we are, even though He knows the reason behind it.

Cain was wrong in what he was doing, but worse yet, he wouldn’t admit he was wrong. Instead, he did the same as his father and mother—put the blame on someone else. Cain didn’t answer the question; nevertheless, God knew why Cain was angry and why his countenance was fallen. Cain had a big attitude problem. God asked Cain, “if you do right, will you not be accepted?” (This is a promise of restored fellowship).

Have you ever done something that was not right and there seemed to be a voice inside telling you it wasn’t the right thing to do? That voice is the Holy Spirit. God does not want anyone to perish. He is a just and loving God, and He warns people of the consequences of sin.

Unfortunately, Cain did not let God help him and his anger takes control. Cain could have learned from his brother, but he had no love for him. Instead, Cain was jealous of his brother’s success and envious of Abel’s position before God.

Abel was not Cain’s enemy in life, but he invites his brother to a secluded field. Abel never sees it coming. Cain does the unthinkable. He kills his own flesh and blood.

God confronts Cain. “Where’s your brother?” (As if God didn’t already know!) God asks, “What have you done?” Once more, God gives Cain the opportunity to confess what he has done and Cain remains silent—a sign of rejecting the offer. Even in his condition as a murderer, God was giving Cain a chance to repent. Cain decides to plead ignorance and maybe the problem will go away by saying, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” That’s a common human strategy. It didn’t work then. It doesn’t work now. Cain’s answer “am I my brother’s keeper?” is a charge brought against God by Cain. It is a denial of responsibility and shifting blame; “God, that is your responsibility”. God offers Cain an opportunity to confess to what he had done and ask for forgiveness. Cain rejects the offer with an outright lie, “I do not know”. Cain becomes both a liar and a murderer.

Does Cain think murder solves his problem? Does it make his offering any more worthy, or God’s opinion of him any better? No, this killing doesn’t make sense. Sin and anger never do.

A lesson we learn from the murder of Abel is that anger and jealousy can be very destructive. It is certainly not Abel's fault that Cain's sacrifice is not pleasing to God. But when God accepts Abel's offering and rejects Cain's, Cain directs his anger, jealousy, and hatred toward his brother. The history of crime shows that when given the opportunity, hatred often leads to murder. That is what Jesus was pointing to in Matthew 5 where He says hating your brother leads to the same judgment as murder.

Some of you may have come here today feeling angry. It might have been something that happened this morning. Whatever the reason for the anger is, you need to ask the Holy Spirit help you overcome and get rid of it.

Ephesians 4:26-27 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

Cain gave the devil a foothold. That is what God warned him about. Uncontrolled anger and jealousy resulted in Abel's death and destroyed Cain's life, too. Don't let it happen in your life. Acknowledge that the attitude is wrong, confess it to the Lord, and ask for His help in overcoming this destructive sin.

Cain was given time to repent, yet he was defiant to the end. The love of God for man knows no bounds, but God knows when the heart of a man has gone too far and grown too hard to ever turn back to Him in repentance. Cain had reached that point!

Cain eliminated his brother, but he couldn’t eliminate the judgment of God. God sentenced him to be a vagrant and a wanderer; he will have no permanent residence. It was a merciful punishment for his crime. Cain was a farmer; however, from this day forward his labors will no longer be productive and provide the necessities of life.

Cain’s response to the sentence is a complaint; his punishment is too great to bear. Cain saw his murdering Abel as no big deal. Now he sees the punishment as unjust, not deserving, when in reality, mercy was extended to him. This demonstrates the foolishness of un-repented sin in the heart of a man. It condemns him to a self-centered life that is unfulfilling and desperate. It condemns him to separation from the presence of God in his life. Now Cain fears imaginary enemies. Cain becomes a fugitive who pleads for God’s protection, runs from unseen foes, and fears his own shadow.

God banished Cain to a nomadic life, but Cain continued to rebel against God. Instead of living a nomadic life, Cain settled down and tried to build a city.

While Eve was talked into her sin by the devil, Cain did not even let God talk him out of his sin. God appeared, reasoned with him, warned against anger, sin, and jealousy, but Cain ignored God, misled his brother, and killed him with his bare hands. Cain was angry, and that anger turned into deadly rage, which he unleashed on Abel. Abel became the first martyr for his faith in history.

Because Cain didn't have a right relationship with God, his relationship with his brother Abel was not right either. Neither can we have a good relationship with God if we have a poor relationship with the people around us.

Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Moreover, we are not to even try to worship God if another Christian has something against us.

Matthew 5:23-24 So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Unless our relationship with God is right, we cannot expect our relationship with others to be good. Some of us have experienced that. A friend of mine once said, "Jerry, I have noticed that when my relationship with God is good, I get along with my wife better." I said, "Yeah, I find the same thing."

When there is something wrong in my relationship with God, when I'm not spending time reading the Bible and praying as I should, when there is sin in my life that I am not confessing to the Lord, then I treat everyone else around me worse than I should.

If we are having a problem in our relationship with another person, it is important that we ask ourselves this question: Is my relationship with God what it should be? If it is not, that is going to affect how we treat others.
I suggest we each examine our relationship with God. Are we spending time regularly, daily, reading the Bible and praying? What are our motives for being involved in the church and serving the Lord? Are we taking sin seriously and going to the Lord for forgiveness whenever we find it in our life? What kind of sacrifice do you bring to God today? Is your body a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God? Do you come to God with a broken and contrite heart or are you presenting your good works? Have you reconciled any differences you have with another believer? Do you thank God for what He has given you, or do you think He is not showing you the favor you deserve? Are you correctable and teachable, or stubborn and arrogant? Finally, do you realize where you are at this moment and Who is in our presence?

Hebrews 12:22-24 “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”.

Christians, we must keep two very important truths in view. The first is the one we have just talked about with Cain: Sin has serious consequences. The second is—God offers forgiveness to all sinners. No matter who you are, no matter what you have done (even if you have murdered your brother or your unborn child), if you turn to Jesus Christ, you will find free and full forgiveness from Jesus’ atonement on the Cross. Jesus, the Lamb of God, shed His Blood for the forgiveness of sin and to make us right with God.

Therefore, don’t run or try to hide from God. He knows what we have done and why we did it. Confess your sin to God.

I John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

If you don’t have a relationship with God, come and confess Jesus as the Son of God, your Lord and Savior. Repent of your sin and give Him your life in baptism. He will give you a new life in the Holy Spirit.