AM I MY BROTHER’S KEEPER? (Gen. 4:9)
By Tommy Thornhill
This question is the reply Cain gives to God after God has inquired about where Abel was. God knew, but he wanted Cain to realize what he had done. This is the second example of a cross-examination. The first was asked by God to Adam, who was struggling to defend himself after he admitted the reason he and Eve were hiding because they realized they were naked. God then asked him, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” Gen.3:9-11. Adam in a round-about way, after first trying to pass the blame, had to admit they had listened to the devil and not God. The question we are now considering is asked after a man’s struggle with another man. Adam and Eve were evasive but humble in what they had done. Cain exhibits hardness and cynicism.
The answer to the question is “Yes.” But Cain was trying to indicate it was really no concern of his. His answer was one of contempt and deception. He knew but didn’t want to admit it. “Am I supposed to watch over him all the time?” People do have a responsibility to watch out for their neighbor’s welfare, as Jesus pointed out is the second greatest commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” Matt.22:39. We see the same indifference of Cain’s response to God, with the priest and Levite in Jesus’ parable about the good Samaritan Lk.10:29-37.
Envy and hatred kept Cain from doing what was right. He had just murdered his brother. Centuries later his actions are used as a warning to men 1.Jn.3:11-12. It was envy and hatred that caused the Jews to crucify Christ Matt.27:18. These attitudes are a disposition of little people. It steals their character and nobility and makes them less than they ought to be. Solomon called it “a rottenness of the bones” Prov.14:30. Like a tree that looks strong from the outside, but rotten inside. A wind blows it down and people are surprised. That is what envy and hate does to a person. It eats them up on the inside. Envy is always wrong. It is different from jealousy. Envy wants that which belongs to another and will do whatever it takes to get it if possible. Jealousy can cause one to strive to possess the things that belong to another, but will seek to obtain it by rightful means. God is a jealous God in that He wants our soul for Himself, but He will not force man to accept Him. He will do the right thing to acquire it, but only if the person is willing to allow it.
Not only envy and hatred, but selfishness kept Cain from being his brother’s keeper. He was self-centered and thus unconcerned about his brother. He wanted everything to center around himself. He wanted to be the center of attention. “He loved himself too much to love anyone else.” Note 1.Cor.10:24. “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.” “…Look out …for the interest of others” Phil.2:4. “As frost to the bud, and blight to the blossom, even is self-interest to friendship; for confidence cannot dwell where selfishness is porter at the gate.” Tupper. “Sordid selfishness doth contract and narrow our benevolence, and cause us, like serpents, to infold ourselves within ourselves, and to turn our stings to all the world besides.” Walter Scott.
Cain’s spirit was a renunciation of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. God is the father of us all. It follows then that we are all brothers. As brothers we have obligations and duties to each other Mal.2:10. This is the link that holds mankind together. When we watch out for our brothers we love the neighbor as ourselves Matt.22:39. We will seek to restore the fallen Gal.6:1-2 and help bear one another’s burdens. We will seek to do good to all men Gal.6:10 and give to him that needs Eph.4:28. We will rejoice with others and weep when they do Rom.12:15. We will treat others like we want to be treated Matt.7:12.
After reading the things above, let’s make the application to one of the problems that is affecting our society today, that of racism.
Racism comes about because people are unaware of the fact that when God created man and woman He created them as one race of people, the human race. Centuries later Paul stated this truth as he told them that “God, who made the world and everything in it made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth …” Acts 17:24-26. This means that the blood of any human being, regardless of skin color, ethnicity or nationality, can be exchanged with any other human being. Yes, we are all ONE BLOOD, and this cannot be successfully denied. In all the discussions about racism I have not heard or read of this fact being pointed out. Whether people realize it or not, racism is a renunciation of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. This is what Cain was implying in his question to God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Gen.4:9.
One other thing to consider is that since man has been created in the image of God as stated in Gen.1:26-27, racism would be eliminated if people were like God, and practice impartiality. Jesus’s disciples had to learn this lesson, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted of Him” Acts 10:34-35. Also read Rom.2:11.
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