Humanity was fresh out to the Garden of Eden. There now stood an angel of the Lord between Adam and Eve and the tree of life. Like any strong-willed humans, they tried to make the best of a terrible situation. They built a house, started a family and had some children. Two boys are named in the story along with a description of their work. “Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.” (Gen. 4:2)
Then the story takes a few unexplained turns. Cain is described as bringing in some fruits of the soil as an offering, while Abel brought in his firstborn along with the fat portions. There appears to be a difference in attitude between the two boys. One just tried to do the bare minimum in his sacrifice to God while the other offered his best. There is no real comment made in the text to explain any further, but God looked with favor on Abel’s offering and Cain’s he disapproved. This makes Cain very angry, and his face was downcast (Gen. 4:5).
Finally, Cain takes Abel out into the field where he attacks and kills him. Traditionally the weapon of choice was a stone. We are not given that detail, but since Cain and Abel are in a field, Cain most likely used the closest item as his tool of destruction. It might have been a stone or possibly some farming tool. Whatever he used, Abel is dead, and the first story out of the garden is one of the murder of another human being.
Several things catch me about this story. To begin with, I am amazed that God makes no real comment on Abel’s death. He does not assure Adam and Eve that their son is in a better place. God does not explain what just happened, even though it was the first death on the face of the earth. Cain is cursed, and life moves into the future for everyone but Abel.
The second thing I notice is the motive behind this heinous act. A teacher of mine used to say, “Cain was mad at God, but he took it out on Abel.” Apparently, God had given this original family a plan to help them overcome their sin. He instructed them in sacrifices and atonement that is not known universally until the Old Testament law is received through Moses. The story implies that Cain and Abel knew what God desired, and Cain chose to ignore it and look for a shortcut. His quest for a less costly way to give lead him away from God and he now felt the pain of disapproval. His spiritual failure became manifest in the way he treated his brother.
I often wonder if the real source of his anger was self-hatred. He knew the right thing to do and just ignored it. Then he felt the weight of his sin, and it was a dark stain that would not rub off his soul. He felt the remorse and regret that come with poor decisions. Cain had fallen short of God’s plan, and he felt it deep inside his soul, and his reaction was to hurt the people closest to him.
The world is full of people who hurt one another. The response to these tragedies is to offer up a hundred changes to make our world safer. I rarely hear anyone talking about the real root of the issue is a spiritual problem. I believe the hope for our world is not found in anything outside of Jesus. He came to forgive humanity and make our heart right with God while bringing peace that passes understanding.
Mankind can try to make a long list of rules to stop bad behavior, but if we do not acknowledge the spiritual source of this behavior, we will never find a resolution. We are offering a bandage to fix a broken heart. As long as people live with the self-hatred of a fractured relationship with God, they will find ways to destroy their fellow man.
What the world needs now is the same things it required right out of the garden. We need a Savior. One who will remove the stain on our soul and make us right with God. Only then will we view our fellow man with love and grace.
I do not want to oversimplify a complicated situation, but I also do not want to ignore the spiritual aspects of the events in our world. It is way to easy to pick up our own rocks and throw them at Cain and somehow think we are improving our society. The only gateway to a better world is through sharing the message of Jesus Christ.