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 I wanted to do a bible study on Cain in the same manner that I did a study on Esau.  Both of those men are not highly thought of by believers and rightly so.  Cain murdered his brother and Esau gave up his birthright and lost out on the greater blessing from God. While we do not think highly of these two men, they made decisions that we as believers today can learn from.

So, as we continue on in our third season of bible study, I want to take this deep look at the error of Cain’s way. We are warned in Jude 1:11 not to follow in the “way of Cain”. So, let’s see what his way was and we can learn from it.

The children of Adam and Eve 

Cain was the oldest child of Adam and Eve (Gen. 4:1). We recall that Adam and Eve were put out of Eden for disobeying the Lord’s rule about eating from the tree in the center of the garden (Gen. 2:16-17). After being exiled from the garden, Cain was born.

I point this out because Adam and Eve were the only two people ever “created” by God. Adam and Eve occupied a world that had no sin it. Cain, on the other hand, was the first person to ever be born in a world of sin! That’s something that we rarely stop to think about, but it’s something that I do find to be interesting.

Since I just pointed out something I find to be interesting, I want to quickly point out some other things of interest. Adam and Eve had more than 2 sons. How else would Cain have a wife (Gen. 4:16-17)? (Cain was already married when he was exiled to be a wanderer as stated in those two verses.) After the death of their second son, Eve gave birth to Seth (Gen. 4:25).

Other children of Adam and Eve

Adam was 130 years old at the time of his third son’s birth (Gen. 5:2). We are then told that Adam, after the birth of Seth, would go on to live for 800 years (Gen 5:4).   During those 800 years, we are told that Adam had both sons and daughters!

Again, these are notes that don’t really have much to do with our study but are things I find interesting. Mostly because there are many people who try to have “eureka moments” when it comes to scripture.  Those who question scripture always seem to wonder ‘where did the other people come from’ – like Cain’s wife. Let’s just note how long people were living in those first days, and the rate at which they were having babies!

The mistake of Cain

Now, let’s get into the meat of our study (Gen. 4:1-15).  Scripture tells us that both Cain and Abel were hard working men.  Abel was a shepherd and Cain was a farmer (Gen. 4:2). We are told that time passed to a point in time to where both Cain and Abel brought forth an offering to the Lord (Gen. 4:3).  This is the first time we read about an offering being made to the Lord in scripture.

Making an offering to God at that point in time was a sign of worshiping Him.  In a way, we could think of this moment in scripture as the first day of worship recorded in scripture.  How did they know to do this or who told them that they needed to worship God by giving an offering?  Was it their parents?

We cannot say for a fact that it was Adam and Eve who instructed them to give offerings to God because this is not shown to us in scripture.  In God’s response to Cain after both men give their offerings, we get a hint to the answer for that question. We can also read in Hebrews, “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain” (Heb. 11:4).

4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.

Hebrews 11:4 NKJV

Coming and giving to God out of faith  

Abel obtained witness that he was righteous.  The only way someone can become righteous is through their faith in the Lord, right?  So, according to scripture, it is revealed to us that Abel knew what to offer and when to offer it by God.  Abel came to the Lord with his offering by faith.  When we worship God, we are to worship Him out of genuine faith. As God revealed this need Abel, the Spirit reveal this same need to mankind.

So, one could certainly wonder if God gave this same revelation to Cain. It is an interesting thought, but I have concluded that God did give Cain the same revelation.  The reason I say this is because he was there to give an offering! Why else would he be there? Did he simply see his brother doing something and decided to copy him? I highly doubt that.

Not only that, but God was not pleased with Cain. God would not be displeased with Cain without just cause. We are told that the Lord respected Abel’s offering but did not respect Cain’s offering (Gen 4:3-5).  What was it that caused Cain’s offering to not be accepted by God? What would cause the Lord to be displeased with our worship of Him today? Let’s dig deeper.

Did Cain not give his best?

 Typically, when we talk about both of the brother’s offerings, we make a big deal about what each brother gave. I know for a fact I have been a big proponent of doing just that. (Remember that I said the offerings were a sign of worship.) Well, let’s take a look at what each of the brother’s had to give and see if we can discern anything from what they gave.  

We are told that Abel brought the firstborn of his flock and of their fat (Gen. 4:4).  Again, Abel was a shepherd and so sheep was likely something he felt God provided to Him.  I have always thought and spoken highly of Abel’s offering because it seemed the better offering to me.

Cain, on the other hand, brought to God an offering of the fruit of the ground (Gen. 4:3).  Was it wrong of Cain to bring fruit as an offering?  I do not think so though I cannot say this for a certainty. It’s just like how I cannot imagine that God would be upset with someone giving the church the little that they may be able to afford to give. Not all of us have great wealth to be able to put into the collection plate on Sunday! God is concerned about something else more than He is what we have in our pockets to tithe and put in the collection plate.

Like his brother, Cain brought something from his work and his work was that of a farmer.  So, I am going to assume just for the sake of this study that Cain had a good crop to choose from and he gave what he had.

Cain’s lacking faith

So, why was God displeased with Cain’s worship (offering)?  Both of these men came from the same place and essentially shared the same background.  They had the same parents, the same teachings, and grew up in the same ‘neighborhood’. However, there was something very unique to Abel that Cain did not have and it created a big difference in both of their manner of worship.  

Abel came to God through faith, whereas Cain simply showed up.  Yes, Cain showed up to worship God with his offering, but he did not show up with faith in his heart.  Cain was there with his offering because he felt he had to be there. There are many people who show up to church in this same manner – there just to be there.

God did not care about Cain’s offering, but what He did care about was what was in Cain’s heart. This has always been what God has cared about when it comes to mankind: what kind of heart (spirit) we have inside of us. Does genuine faith in God dwell in our hearts and do we move in genuine faith?  You see, Abel showed up to worship and serve God out of faith and Cain did not.

The error of Cain’s religion further explained

Do you worship and serve God out of genuine faith or are you doing it just because?  You see, there are many people who genuinely have faith in God and so they serve Him with good works out of that genuine faith.  At the very same time, there are many people who show up just because it’s ‘what they are supposed to do’. “The Bible says I am supposed to worship and pray to God, so, I will do it just because.” Yes, that certainly sounds like a great reason but we ought to be doing that because we genuinely believe in the need to so!

Worshiping out of religion, not acceptable

The act of worship and serving God has simply become religion for many people.  Maybe they do it because their parents or their grandparents took them to church when they were little.  It is possible that some do it because it “makes them feel good” for a bit; they get to sing songs and people watch. However, you have to answer whether our faith in God is genuine or if it is just a religious thing we are choosing to do.

This reminds me of scripture that we can find in Isaiah.  In Isaiah, it is recorded how the Jews were still offering up sacrifice to the Lord but their hearts were not in it.  Their hearts were not in it because most of the Jews had given their hearts over to their idols and false gods which angered God (Is. 1:4).  Yet, they would still come to God with their offerings of worship which God called futile (Is. 1:13).

God views the gesture of worshiping out of religion to be a futile attempt at worshiping Him.  God wants to be loved genuinely! Question:  How many of us would be satisfied with love that is not genuine?  I can’t imagine many people would choose love that is not genuine over love that is genuine.

Cain showed up with no genuine faith or love for God in his heart and God did not respect that.  We cannot call ourselves Christians but have a heart that is like the heart of Cain. There are many people who practice the same sort of religion that Cain practiced – they just show up.  I tell you that there are many people who say that they are believers, but they do not have the faith or love in their heart of a genuine believer.

The way of Cain

Now, when I say heart, I want you to understand that I am talking about someone’s spirit (soul).  Abel had a spirit of faith – he wanted to be there and to give his offering to God.  Cain thought his simply showing up with an offering would be something that was acceptable to God.  You see, it was all about what Cain thought instead of him choosing to be faithful.

Simply going to church is not enough. Simply tithing and giving an offering is not enough. Had Cain showed up and had nothing to give, but did that out of genuine faith in God, I don’t believe God would have been displeased. Sometimes we have bills that need to be paid, or simply don’t have anything to put in the collection plate – nothing wrong with that!

Being faithful to God is not only about your trust in God but also being submissive and obedient to God’s way.  God’s way is a way that is of love. We are told to to love God and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matt. 22:38-39).  When we say “neighbor” that means all of those around us, right? Jesus told us to even love those who hate us (Matt. 5:44).

The way that Cain approached the Lord was out of a self-righteous sort of manner.  How do I know that? Well, Cain gives us this answer himself in how he came to God.  Yes, I believe God revealed to Cain when, what, and where to appear before Him in worship. Cain did not have faith to show up in the manner that was not revealed to Him.  He showed up in a manner that only pleased himself.

Self-righteous anger

Cain thought it was fine to come to God in the manner that he did — he felt he was in the right!  We know that Cain was very satisfied with himself because of his countenance. After it was apparent to Cain that God was not pleased with him and his offering, Cain’s countenance fell.

but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.

Genesis 4:5 NKJV

Countenance: a person’s face or facial expression. For his expression to fall means his countenance was high. Cain was very proud and very happy, but then he became very angry.  He is angry because he thought his way was right but it turns out, it was not something that pleased God. So, we find that the way of Cain begins with a bit of self-righteousness.

Any person who lives by their own way and believes that their way is righteous (right), are practicing a way of self-righteousness.  It is a way that says your way is better than God’s way. Sadly, we see this a lot today with many professed believers. I have actually been preaching on a series of sermons recently on this subject – A Spiritual Dilemma. We are living in a time of great dilemma for many believers.

Again, Jesus asked for those that would choose to follow Him to put Him first and to do so genuinely (Luke 9:23-24).  This is something that a genuine disciple of Christ must be able to do. When we begin to choose ourselves over God’s righteousness, we begin to move in the way of Cain.

Leads to sin

We’ll find in Cain’s story that after he and his brother’s offerings, God spoke to Cain and gave Cain a warning of sorts.  Here’s what God said to Cain:

7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

Genesis 5:7 NKJV

Here God is personally warning Cain against moving in sin! Yes, we live in a world of sin but we do not have to live in a manner where sin rules us. We have the ability to control ourselves and become rulers over the wicked things we are capable of doing! Self-control is one of the fruits of the spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

Cain, in his way, was unable to act with self-control. He allowed his anger to stir up his hatred. And so, we find that Cain’s way is a way that acts in a sinful way. Cain’s way is a way removed from love – that is the love of God.

Removed from love

Cain responded in a manner that was full of envy, jealousy, anger, and hatred – he murdered his brother (Gen. 4:8).  When God asked about Abel’s whereabouts, Cain showed the type of heart he had in him by asking God (Gen 4:9), “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  That’s an absolutely disgusting answer, right?  That is the way of Cain: self-righteous faith, no love, and filled with darkness (wickedness) leading to sin.

The one thing we suffer from today is that there are too many self-righteous practitioners who live among us that do not love their neighbor.  In fact, we find that there are many people who claim to be believers, but in reality, they live in the way of Cain. We have to learn from the errors of Cain so that we do not end up going down such a dark path.   

Again, all true believers of Christ are called to love their neighbor as they would love themselves.  Yes, we are supposed to be our brother’s keeper.  It is sad and disgusting how much harm we have been able to inflict on each other!  And then to see many of the inflictors claim to be Christian – you cannot! Christ did not live with such darkness in Him and neither should those who strive to be as Him.

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