Cain & Abel

This morning you get a two for one deal on sermons.  I will first address the implications of the story with regard to mothers and parents, then I will focus on the other aspects of the passage.  If I accomplish this feat, there will be two points to take home today.

Genesis 4:1-8

1 Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 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.”

8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

The first lesson to be learned from the story of Cain and Abel comes not from what is in the text, but what is not.  Now, there’s a lot that is not included here.  Genesis 5 tells us that Adam and Eve have a son named Seth.  Adam says that Seth was granted in place of Abel.  It is a working assumption, but I believe that at this point in time fertility is not a problem and Eve could conceivably have a child a year.  If Seth is born at 130 years, the story of Cain and Abel takes place approximately 130 years after Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden of Eden.

Aside from what is left out from 130 years, what is also missing is any kind of repentance on Adam and Eve’s part.  God had covered their shame and nakedness through sacrifice but nothing is recorded from Adam and Eve.  The reason, I believe, is that there was no repentance.

Cain is the first child born.  He is at least the first child mentioned and thus is most likely the first child.  Abel could have likely been born sometime later with numerous children in between.  Cain is the first child born in the sin of his parents.  He does not absorb extra sin or anything like that but he is representative of the sin that is passed on from parent to child.

If Adam and Eve were never repentant of their sins, and I say sins plural because they definitely committed more after the first one, it only stands to reason that they would have a child who is unrepentant and sinful.

Proverbs 22:6 says, Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.  Proverbs are good suggestions on how to live one’s life.  They are not rules or guarantees.  Good parents can still raise bad children because children have their own free will.  Many families have a black sheep, someone who gets into trouble and doesn’t follow the ways that their parents taught them.  But I believe this proverb applies to this story.

I don’t believe that Cain was raised as he should have been.  Virtues that should have been instilled in him never were, perhaps because Adam and Eve never exhibited them.  We don’t know why except because of sin.  Maybe they spent their time in bitterness after being removed from Eden.  Maybe Cain didn’t get the attention he needed because more children quickly came after him.  There’s no way to know.

Or maybe Cain was the exception and not the rule.  Perhaps Adam and Eve got it right after all and Abel is a more accurate reflection of them and their reverence for God.  In that case, Cain is representative of the way sin escalates and snowballs.  One small act of disobedience from the parents grows, festers, and finally erupts in a heinous act of murder in the next generation.  This doesn’t suggest that sinful parents lead to murderous children, just a note on how sin grows.

The lesson for parents is one of influence.  Whether Cain is the norm of Adam and Eve’s children or the exception, I believe that his sin is a result of the sin of his parents.  Parents have a responsibility to set the best example they can for their children.  Some children turn out sinful despite having good parents.  Other children turn out well in spite of having poor parents.

In the end, we can only control what we do.  We can teach and guide but we can’t make anyone else do something.  We are responsible for our own actions.  Part of that responsibility comes in training children the best that we can.  After that, they must be left to make their own decisions and face the consequences of those decisions, whether good or bad.

A matter of worship

Now, on to the emphasis of this passage if not for mother’s day.  The story of Cain and Abel is really a matter of worship.  It is a matter of the heart and of reverence for God.  Many people see this story as a childhood rivalry and one of jealousy.  The truth is that I can almost guarantee that Cain is far from a child and Abel is quite possibly older than anyone here.

If Cain is the firstborn and Seth is born to Adam at 130 as a replacement for Abel, Cain is possibly 127 or 128.  We must remember that Adam was an adult at creation and thus he and Eve may have had their first child at a year old.

Verses 2-5 which we already looked at tell us the heart of the matter.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

A few things are at play here.  The idea of sacrifice seems to have been instilled into Cain and Abel.  God doesn’t call for one but they both bring one anyway.  The concept of sacrifice was likely started at the time when God sacrificed an animal to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness.  That being the likely case, animal sacrifice was what was required.  The blood of the animals sacrificed points to the blood of Jesus on the cross.

Aside from what is offered, there appears to be a real problem with the way things are offered.  Verse 3 says that Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil.  The attitude appears to be casual, as if God is getting the leftovers from the harvest.  This is set up as a contrast to Abel’s sacrifice with the word BUT to start verse 4.

Abel brought the best that he had, the fat portions from the firstborn of his livestock.  Abel sacrificed the best that he had.  And he did so from the firstborn.  That meant that he didn’t wait to see what else would come, he trusted God to provide regardless because God had provided the firstfruits.

This is the second point to take home today.  Our attitude matters every bit as much as what we sacrifice.  Cain freely gave of what he had.  He is the equivalent of the person who adds up what they have at the end of the month and writes out a check accordingly.

Abel did the opposite. He decided that everything that he had was a gift from God.  He determined that he would give to God first and then live off of the rest that he was blessed with.  Abel is the equivalent of the person who sets aside 10% or whatever they choose to give and then manages their budget according to what is left.  God gets a portion first and not a portion of what is leftover later.

This isn’t a call to give more money to church.  Instead it is a call for everyone to check their hearts.  When it comes to giving, are you more like Cain or Abel?  Does God get from the first in your budget or the leftovers?

I know the state of the economy right now.  I watch the offering numbers every week.  Let me tell you that I don’t watch in fear, wondering if the church is going to be able pay me or not.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  The church writes my checks but God is the one who takes care of me.  Simply asking for more money isn’t the way to go.  We don’t need more money.  What we need is more people with the attitude of Abel who put God first and then trust Him to provide for their needs.  When that happens, the money will come.  As a matter of fact, I’m confident that when the people of this church trust God for their needs and give to Him first, there will be an abundance in offering.


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