The Way of Cain

Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain (Jude 11a)

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous. (1Jn 3:11-12)

In Luke 15, Jesus tells what is probably his most famous parable: The prodigal son. However when you read the context of the parable carefully, you realise that the parable is not primarily directed at the prodigals. It's a story about two brothers. One who receives abundant grace from the father, and the other who becomes bitter and angry as a result. It was told to the Pharisees who resented the grace he was showing to the tax collectors and sinners. Jesus in correcting their attitude tells this tale of two brothers which contains a sharp reminder of the very first two brothers: Abel and Cain. Jesus was sending a strong message - there is a grave danger in becoming resentful over the grace shown to another - for it is the way of Cain!

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; (Heb 12:15)

Cain we are told in 1 John, "Was of the evil one." We might be tempted therefore to disregard his life and his errors as being irrelevant to those of us who belong to God. Yet in the same breath John warns us that we must not become like him! Since there is no need for a warning for something that can never occur, the implicit suggestion is that we are not immune from straying down the way of Cain, and we must be on guard to make sure we turn around quickly if we find we are on that path, for we know where it leads!

Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1Jn 3:15)

You see, Cain did not start out badly...

In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground. (Ge 4:5)

Cain brought an offering to God. It was his own initiative, and expression of his own heart and desire to minister to God. There was nothing wrong with this at all. It shows that there were good and noble desires and ambitions within Cain's heart... It was what happened next that revealed that there were other things lurking in Cain's heart that were not so pleasant!

...and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. (Ge 4:4)

His younger brother got in on the act! Although Cain's attitude towards God seemed right, it was his attitude towards his brother that was his undoing. As John reminds us over and over in his epistles. Our love for God cannot exist in isolation from an expression of love towards our brothers. If the latter is wrong, then so is the former. God will sometimes arrange situations to bring issues in our heart that need dealing with up to the surface. The Father sought to do this for Cain...

The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Ge 4:6-7)

Even Cain had a choice. God did not set him up to fail! He stood at a crossroads. He could repent of his bad attitude towards his brother and master his sinful resentment, or he could continue to indulge it and see where it led him...

The choice he made now stands as an eternal warning for us not to do likewise!

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 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. (Mt 5:21-24)

[More to follow...]

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