Have you ever had a brother or sister who was jealous of you? It is more common than you think, but rarely does it lead to murder. Siblings will fight like cats and dogs with one another, but are like little lambs when it comes to others outside of their family. It’s like the old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt”. Perhaps sibling rivalry prepares us for a very cruel world. However, what could make a brother or sister despise one another to the point of murder?
“For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous” (1 Jn 3:11-12).
The record of Cain killing his brother Abel startles us in the record of Genesis. Soon after God created man, Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden. Consequently, they were driven out of the Garden to separate them from the Tree of Life. After leaving the Garden, Adam and Eve had two children Cain and Abel. Cain was a farmer and Abel was a shepherd.
In the course of time, both brought their sacrifices for worship. “And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell” (Gen. 4:4-5).
The difference in the two sacrifices is given in Hebrews 11:4 “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaks.” Abel offered his sacrifice by faith, but Cain did not. Faith can only exist when it is grounded in the word of God. One cannot act by faith unless God has spoken and told a person what he must do. A person acts by faith when he obeys what the word God has spoken. From this we conclude that God had commanded how he was to be worshiped and Abel obeyed, but Cain did not.
As a result, Cain became angry because God accepted Abel’s worship but rejected his own. In the process of time, Cain’s anger and jealousy overcame him to the point that he murdered his brother.
Why Did Cain Murder His Brother?
John plainly states that Cain was “of the devil.” This means that he had come under his influence. Instead of having his life guided and directed by the revealed will of God, Cain was allured by the Devil into following the course of life he wished for him.
When God spoke to Cain about his disposition and attitude, he said, “Why are you angry? And why is your countenance fallen? If you do well, shall you not be accepted? And if you do not well, sin lies at the door. And unto you shall be his desire, and you shall rule over him” (Gen. 4:6-7). The Lord warned Cain that sin was lying at his door like a despot wishing to subdue him and bring him into subjection. Cain did not conquer his feelings toward his brother. His brother’s acceptance by God was something he hated. He harbored his ill will in his heart until it grew into such a monster that he was able to kill his own brother.
The Danger of Harboring Hatred
Sometimes brethren get crossed with one another. The Bible tells us how to deal with such problems:
“Moreover if your brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with you one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican” (Matt. 18:15-17).
When these instructions are ignored and rejected, the insignificant problems between brethren grow and fester until they erupt, pouring out their poison upon one another. With Cain, the eruption was to murder his brother, his own flesh and blood. With others, sometimes the eruption is to say unkind and hateful things about another, to gossip and slander brethren behind their back, to undermine the good that they are doing. Sometimes the poison becomes so strong that it will divide brethren one from another. Sometimes it will divide the whole church.
A person may think that the proper way to handle his anger, bitterness and resentment is to keep it bottled up inside. The immediate situation may appear better because the confusion of working through one’s differences does not occur. However, the long range problem is magnified. Every future conflict is magnified by the pent up anger and bitter resentment. Little problems become major issues because of the underlying animosity. The Lord knew what was best for good relationships between brethren when he commanded that brethren work trough their differences immediately instead of allowing them to fester.