|Vol. 2, No. 5||Page 6||May 2000|
The Way of Cain
In the major portion of the fourth chapter of the Book of Genesis, we have recorded a history of one of the sons of Adam and Eve whose name was Cain. The story most remembered from this chapter is, of course, the story of Cain’s killing his brother Abel because of his jealousy over the fact that God accepted the offering of Abel and rejected the offering of Cain. Due to the fact that Cain committed this horrendous crime, he was banished to the “land of Nod,” where his wife bore him children, and a whole family of people descended from him. Here, in the land of Nod, polygamy began when Lamech, the great, great, great grandson of Cain took two wives.
The life of Cain becomes very interesting to those of us who are Christians because when Jude, half-brother of our Lord Jesus Christ, wrote the little book of the New Testament that bears his name, he spoke of certain evils that had arisen in the early church as a result of a certain type of false teacher. Of these false teachers, who had crept in unnoticed, Jude said, “Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.” While it would be very interesting to notice what the error of Balaam was, and how the false teachers were rebelling against God as had the people of Israel in the days of Korah, we wish, in this brief article to look only at the phrase “in the way of Cain,” which was one of the paths upon which these false teachers were walking. As we look back on the “way of Cain” in the book of Genesis, we wish to ask just what that was. Obviously, it means to live a life that was characteristic of Cain, and so we wish to look at some of the characteristics of the life of Cain, and from these learn the kinds of mistakes we should avoid in life.
The way of Cain was a way of selfishness. Since Abel offered, by faith, a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, there must have been some description of the kinds of sacrifices God wanted handed down to Cain, either directly or through his father Adam. But when Cain came to worship God with a sacrifice, he decided that he would offer the kind of sacrifice that he wanted. And, rather than offering a blood sacrifice (lamb) as Abel had done, he offered only a grain offering to God. Thus, he assumed the right to tell God how he would worship him rather than have God tell him how God desired to be worshipped. That is a way of selfishness.
Second, the way of Cain was a way of jealousy. After he learned that God did not have respect for his sacrifice, rather than repenting and offering the kind of sacrifice that would make God happy, Cain became jealous of, and angry with, his brother, whose only “shortcoming” was doing what God wanted in the way God wanted it done. Rather than repenting and doing the will of God in order to receive the approval of God, Cain, in anger generated by jealousy, decided to take action against his brother. This decision was an impulsive one, and it was one from which God attempted to dissuade Cain. He had not really thought this whole thing through, and in a moment of jealous anger, he committed murder. In a moment of anger generated by jealousy, one is very likely to take some impulsive action which can never be undone. God, previous to the murder, attempted to intervene and cool the jealous anger of Cain, but it did no good, and from this we learn that the way of Cain was a way of stubbornness. Cain persisted in doing the thing that he had impulsively decided to do, and as a result of this, he ended up not only taking a human life, but taking the life of his own brother! The result was banishment from all the rest of his family and from God.
Let us be advised by the warning of Jude, and while we may not be false teachers with our hearts set on treachery in the Body of Christ, let us learn to be submissive and humble before God that we do not fall into the way of Cain. Let us pray that those who have fallen into the way of Cain will be reclaimed to live in the way of Christ. Selfishness, jealousy, impulsiveness and stubbornness should never be named among those who desire to be only Christians.