Scripture: Genesis 4: 1-16
Key verses: (6-7) “The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
Reflection: This is the classic tale of sibling rivalry. One of my favorite authors, John Steinbeck was greatly influenced by this biblical story in the writing of his novel East of Eden – a story about two brothers – one who was had a good heart and one who struggled against his dark side. While no person is completely good or evil, East of Eden captures something of the human condition in which jealousy, avarice and unrelenting competition and comparison destroy. What is it in us that creates this kind of evil desire? We can only imagine God’s heartbreak over such behavior, especially when we harm one another. Cain could not accept his brother’s success and his own failure. This didn’t mean that Cain was a failure. But, he couldn’t stand what he perceived as special treatment from God toward his brother, something that he longed for. This is a cautionary tale for all of us. If you grew up with one brother or sister, you may have experienced first-hand unfair treatment by your parents. At least, you perceived it that way. In this passage, God warns about getting angry when someone else does well. Part of life is the reality that our best efforts are not always going to be accepted. And, that at times our actions mask an underlying shadow side we don’t want to face. We can’t buy the favor of God or anyone else. One of the characters in East of Eden tried but he couldn’t be like his brother. He would never be able to be someone else, and instead of finding his own self-worth apart from his sibling, he let his own jealousy destroy him. Sin does seem to lurk at the door. It waited for Cain and it waits for us. We need to accept our limitations and quit comparing ourselves to others. There will be times when we fail, but we can master our feelings of anger by recognizing them, not acting on them. Cain was forever marked by his actions, but God still loved him and wouldn’t let anyone hurt him. Cain would be cursed until he could face the anger within himself. God gave him time to choose another path. And, while we don’t have all the details, he went to a land east of Eden and started a new life.
Is it time for you to let go of whatever is “cursing” you so you can move on?
Prayer: Gracious God, we lift up all the times that we have suffered the consequences of our actions. Heal the places of brokenness within us and help us examine our motives and actions in such a way that we might be free of the sin that clings so closely. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Author: Deborah Conner
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].