Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

With the exile of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, humankind’s history takes a drastic turn. The first family is banished from Paradise, and this once “good” creation has apparently made some unfortunate self-modifications concerning the original model. One would hope that Adam and Eve would learn from this rebellious episode and warn subsequent generations from revolting against God.

The first children of Creation reveal how severely sin is already corrupting Mankind. Adam and Eve were at least obedient to the command “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28) as “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.’ And again, she bore his brother Abel” (Gen. 4:1-2).

Within one generation of God making man in his image, man murders that image in his very own brother. Apparently, sibling rivalry began with these first brothers. Abel watched the sheep and Cain worked the ground (Gen. 4:2). At some point, they each brought an offering to the LORD. It was a gift. It was intended to be a sacrifice of sorts to reveal a grateful heart to their Maker. As a farmer, Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground (Gen. 4:3). Shepherd Abel brought a sacrifice from his flock.

While it appears at first glance that both men provided a worthy gift, God does not regard them equally.

“And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard” (Gen. 4:4-5). A closer look reveals why. It has nothing to do that God prefers shepherds over farmers. His reaction does not imply that he prefers animals over plants. It has nothing to do with the gift, but it has everything to do with the giver.

The problem was not in the type of offering, it was a problem with the quality of the offering. While the external gift looked acceptable to the untrained eye, God was able to look into their hearts and determine the values. While people look at the price tag, God looks at the worth. Looking at these brothers’ offerings, God knew that Abel gave his best and Cain gave his scraps.

Throughout the Old Testament, God warned about giving leftovers. God was aware that Abel had presented his best, and Cain had unfortunately offered an unworthy gift for such a worthy recipient. Since God had regard for Abel’s offering but challenged Cain’s gift, Cain became very jealous. God approached the scowling Cain and asked him a simple yet profound question: “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?” (Gen. 4:6-7). God, aware of Cain’s anger and jealousy, warned him that “sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it” (Gen. 4:7).


Unfortunately, Cain did not heed God’s advice. Cain’s envy caused him to murder his brother who was created in the image of God. God gave Man life, and this man decided unrightfully to take it from another. When God questioned Cain about his brother’s whereabouts, Cain replied, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9). His callous response to his Maker shows how depraved his heart truly is.

Absent of remorse or regret, Cain maintains a defiant tone until God reveals his knowledge concerning the entire situation. He reminds Cain that he is not some type of ignorant deity too impotent to spot a liar or call out a sinner in his tracks. “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground” (Gen. 4:10-11).

When we present God our leftovers, not only is it a slap in the face to God who always gives his best to us, but it also leaves room for jealousy to take over as we watch other’s relationship with God.  When we do wrong, we get angry at those who do right.  Sin has a way of altering our entire rational framework.

Simple question today: “If you do well, will you not be accepted?”  Don’t mistake this for thinking you have to earn God’s love.  This is post-God’s love, not pre-God’s love.  If you are known by God and in a relationship with him, do well.  God can see past a price tag and into something’s value.  Make sure you live a life worthy of the one who gave it.