First a lie, then a dumb question… after starting with a weak offering.
Cain simply did not understand, embrace, or cherish his responsibilities to God.
Since the second generation of man – well, if we include Adam and Eve it actually starts right at the beginning – humanity has sustained an overall miserable record of discerning that for which we are and are not responsible in the eyes of God.
Abel – the object of God’s question and the brother whom Cain had just killed – was an exception. Abel honored God with an offering of the best that he had, and God looked upon him with favor. Cain, essentially, offered God leftovers and God knew the difference. God’s favor was not on Cain, and Cain was self-righteously outraged.
You can read the entire story in Genesis 4, but here let’s focus on God’s reaction and some of the important aspects of man’s various responsibilities to God, to Mankind, and to all God’s creation. I can’t think of a better starting point than Cain and Abel.
First, note God’s even-keeled response to both offerings. He favored this and didn’t favor that. No celebration, no anger … just … favor or not. Abel’s pleasure was in honoring the Lord, period. Cain’s heart was set more on the transactional dynamic of if he gave something to God, God better like it and act like He likes it! Or I’ll get angry!
We often skip over Cain’s dissatisfaction with God and think Cain is simply but murderously jealous of his brother Abel. No … Cain is angry at God so he destroys that which God favors. Who/what does that sound like? Satan’s playbook; Page 1.
Just as God never asks a question to which He does not know the answer (such as, “Where is your brother?”), so too He knows the exact heart of every man and woman in His creation. Abel with his “fatted parts of the firstborn of his flock” revealed a heart truly with God. Cain thought his own duty to God amounted to something like a trade for which Cain could keep account. It is an error still with us today the world over – in church and out of church. Do we simply love God? Or are we working an angle?
I bring this up because I see a modern society quick to assign and approve an entirely self-directed, secular, and personal responsibility in sole support of one’s own appetites and opinions. But it is a one-dimensional responsibility to self, not the proper, manifest palette buttressing the workings of a Godly and civil society: responsibilities to family, community, nation, and God.
The shame of the modern public square is its numbed, frequent, and shockingly dire opposition to – and typically total ignorance of – God’s coherent commandments for how things go best for us. Call it “360-degree accountability.” We must honor God, but also weigh and discern the circumstances of our brothers and sisters; and they, ours.
This is the great lesson of Jesus Christ, what true responsibility before God and mankind looks like. We wildly assert personal rights of pleasure, comfort, and opinion, yet vehemently shout down suggestion of Godly regulation extending beyond our liking.
Jesus’s death wasn’t so much a payment; it was a picture of responsibility.
In the light of Jesus, we are all each other’s keepers and our responsibilities are never just to ourselves. We must always ask others: What can I do, for your sake?
Walters (firstname.lastname@example.org) believes God prefers we don’t mess with His plan. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.