11.6.08

The way Cain went wrong

In my last post, the Way of Cain, I wrote about how Cain is presented in the Scriptures as a warning to us. We may be tempted to ignore that warning, because he was "Of the Evil One" and a murderer and thus seemingly far removed from us. But although the way of Cain ended with murder it did not begin there.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgement.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (Mt5:21-22)

Jesus, in the sermon on the mount traces back the way of Cain, from murder to anger, from anger to insults, and from insults to an offhand remark that reveals what is in the heart. Whilst we may never have followed the way of Cain to the bitter end, we all may stray on to the start of that path at some time or other. The warnings of scripture are written for a reason: they are all applicable to us! [1Co 10:11]

The way of Cain, for Cain himself, began with the resentment he felt over the grace that was shown to his brother. Why did he feel resentment? This, to me, reveals where the way of Cain really begins. It begins when we see our brothers as competing ministries rather than complementary servants outworking God's varied grace. [1Pe 4:10]

Joseph's brothers clearly went down the way of Cain. They became jealous of the grace bestowed on Joseph by their father. They saw him as competition for their father's affections and their own standing in the family. This resentment blinded them to the blessing that Joseph was to the family and themselves.

Saul went down the way of Cain. He became jealous of the grace that was upon David's life and saw it as a direct competition to his authority as King. He could not see the blessing David was to the kingdom, only the perceived threat he was to himself.

The way of Cain begins for us when the blessing and grace poured out on a brother and fellow servant of Jesus does not cause us to rejoice, but to feel threatened. If we find ourselves responding in that way, it's time to recognise that the way we have strayed onto is not good and turn around quickly.

We are not in competition with each other. We have been given varied grace in order to work together as Christ's body for his glory and honour - not our own.

But God has so composed the body, giving greater honour to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together. (1Co 12:24b-26)

2 comments:

SLW said...

Chris,
I really appreciate how you draw the water from the well of the OT!

Do you suppose that the jealousy you speak of in this and the last post is rooted in unbelief? Unbelief and evil go hand in hand (Heb 3:12). What is that jealousy ultimately saying-- that God has a limited pie, and your slice cuts down on mine? Perhaps the way to a clear complexion is to fight the temptation to limit God.

Chris HH said...

Thanks SLW,

Yes, I think there is something in that. Anyone who comes to God must believe, not only that he exists, but that he rewards those who seek him.

If we become jealous of someone else's slice of pie, or become resentful that someone else's slice should have really been ours, then we are doubting God's ability or willingness to reward us. We are also in a round about way accusing the Judge of all of being partial and unjust!

I think that's why Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son the way he did. The answer is not just to understand that we shouldn't be resentful of God's grace to another, but to understand the nature of the Father and his abundant willingness to show grace to all.