Cain brought an offering to God from the produce of his farm. Abel also brought an offering, but from the firstborn animals of his herd, choice cuts of meat. God liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering didn't get his approval. Cain lost his temper and went into a sulk.
God spoke to Cain: "Why this tantrum? Why the sulking? If you do well, won't you be accepted? And if you don't do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it's out to get you, you've got to master it." - Genesis 4:3-8 MSG
Cain had words with his brother. They were out in the field; Cain came at Abel his brother and killed him.
I was having a hard time starting this devotional when I read this on the internet:
"Don't do something permanently stupid because you are temporarily upset."
The whole story of Cain and Abel can be summed up in that quote. Really it gets to the core of sin. When you look at the world and see the horrific things that people are capable of doing to each other, it often brings up that nagging question, "Why?" The answer is no mystery. It is the snowball effect of being inattentive.
Back in college, I took a theology course with Truett Edsel Bobo. Bobo, as he was affectionately known, was full of wisdom and his teaching was multilayered. Sometimes he would say something so profound, I would think about it for weeks. But the most profound thing he ever said in class could be understood by a child. "Sin...is stupid."
The Bible is a very thick book. It tells the story of humanity, how we fall short and how we find redemption. But complicated it is not. It all comes down to this: Love God, love your neighbor and love yourself. It's one verb and three nouns. And yet the Bible is chocked full of stories of how we manage to mess up this simple command and instead explore the wide, wide world of stupid. The story of Cain and Abel is one of the first of these stories.
Why? Why does Cain kill Abel?
Cain and Abel make offerings to God. Cain's is accepted. Abel's is not. We don't know what was unacceptable about Cain's offering. But it was. God asks him a rhetorical question: "If you do well, won't you be accepted?"
Cain knew what God wanted. He just didn't love God enough to put in the full effort.
God warns Cain that sin is about to pounce. But Cain doesn't take God seriously. He doesn't love himself enough to stop and take stock of his feelings. Instead, he becomes jealous of Abel. He doesn't love his brother; he burns with anger.
So in one short little story, we see Cain fall short of loving God, his brother and himself. The outcome is predictable. Sin. Grievous, catastrophic sin.
I love this story. It is thousands of years old. It's been vetted and it can be trusted.
When I allow myself to stray from the very simple path of God, terrible things, stupid things follow. But my vast capacity for stupidity is no match for the depth of God's compassion. While I may wallow in a sea of sin, Christ's sacrifice was more than ample to redeem me.
Holy Spirit, Your voice calls out to us in the silent places. Help us to hear Your call. Teach us to see the seeds of sin in our lives. Root it out and cast it away. Build us up and transform us into the image of Christ. Let love rule our lives. Amen.