od asks penetrating questions. We should pay attention.  God had some interesting questions for Cain in Genesis chapter 4.

Cain and his brother, Abel, each brought offerings to the Lord.   Abel’s offering was acceptable, Cain’s was not.  The Bible does not spell out the reason why one offering was accepted and the other was not.  What it does say is that Cain was angry, very angry.   In Genesis 4:6-12 God demanded some answers from Cain, “Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?  “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”  Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.  Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”  He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.  “Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  “When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” (NASU)

Self-examination is painful but necessary. Aren’t you and I just like Cain?  When our shortcomings are brought to light, we get defensive and angry, rather than trying to learn from the criticism and modify our attitudes and behavior.  Genesis 4 says that not only was Abel’s offering accepted, but so was Abel himself.   Cain himself was not acceptable, just like his offering was not.   Therefore, he must have felt personally attacked.  He chose to become very angry.   Cain could have chosen to make a new acceptable offering, which would certainly have required a change in his attitude.   We have the same choice Cain had.  We can respond in a new attitude in correcting our mistake or we can lash out.  Often innocent victims receive the brunt of our unrighteous anger.   It seems to me that we could avoid much grief if we would attempt to use moments of self-examination to fall in line with God’s purposes. 

God accompanied His questions to Cain with a warning and an additional truth about the privilege of learning from our mistakes.  God pointed out that sin is not passive.  It is aggressive, crouching at our door, looking for an opportunity to become ruler over us.  God reminded Cain that it was all up to Cain.  If Cain, you and I do what is right, we and our offerings will be accepted.  Cain chooses wrongly and often so do we.  The story ends tragically as Cain’s anger takes him to its logical end, striking out against an innocent person.  The result for Cain is that God will soon be asking him a far more difficult question regarding the end result of his unrighteous anger (v. 9-10).   

You and I will make mistakes.  Self-examination will need to be a regular and consistent part of our lives.  Will we choose the way of Cain:  impure motives followed by unrighteous anger, leading to violence against an innocent victim?   If we do, we can be certain that discipline and punishment will follow.  Take God’s advice, do what is right. Take advantage of the privilege of repentance and transformation.  You will save yourself and others much grief. 

STEVE ELLISON  is director of Ouachita Baptist Camp in Arkansas. You may contact him at

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