Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Genesis 4:1-15

The playwright Christopher Marlowe personifies envy as a person unable to read who wishes to burn all the books in the world. In other words, envy is more than just wanting what another person has; envy involves wishing that another individual did not have what you desire.

Many of us, I think, can admit to wrestling with envy. It is the sin with which I most struggle. As a young, single man, I envied others who appeared happily involved in a romantic relationship. In my professional life, I have envied others who were given opportunities I thought I deserved and who were recognized for their accomplishments.

When we harbor bitterness and when we resent seeing someone else enjoy blessings that we crave, it translates to the destruction of our relationship with God and with others. Envy kills.

The deathly nature of envy looks like a Greek fable. An Olympic competitor was so envious to see some citizens raise a statue in honor of one of his rivals that he went out late each night to try to tear down the monument. After repeated efforts, the athlete succeeded in knocking the statue from its pedestal. The irony is that when the heavy monument fell, it did so on top of the envious man, thereby crushing and killing him.

Genesis 4:1-15 records the account of two brothers, Cain and Abel. Both brought an offering to God but only Abel brought his best or first fruits. As a result, God respected Abel and his gift, but "He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell" (Gen. 4:5).

Cain wanted what Abel had, only without the attitude of Abel to receive it. Instead of allowing the root of bitterness to flare up in his heart, Cain needed to turn to the Lord in faith with a similar love as that of Abel. Nevertheless, Cain became envious and that envy led to the murder of his younger brother.

Even after this horrendous crime, the heavenly Father gives Cain (like his parents before him) an opportunity to confess. But Cain, in the same pattern of his mom and dad, tries to cover up his sin. His attempt proves unsuccessful, for Abel's blood calls out for justice from the ground.

Abel's life was unjustly taken, so his blood cried out from the earth for revenge. That is what all our murderous, envious Cain-like hearts deserve. Yet, the author of Hebrews presents a better word. Christ's life was unjustly taken, only His blood cries out from the cross for reconciliation. Jesus revives.

In her poem Envy Went to Church, Elva McAllaster concludes: "Envy went to church this morning./ Being Legion, he sat in every pew./ Envy fingered wool and silk fabrics,/ Hung price tags on suits and neckties./ Envy paced through the parking lot/ Scrutinizing chrome and paint./ ... Envy thumped at widows and widowers,/ Jabbed and kicked college girls without escorts,/ ... He liked his Sunday scores today/ But not enough:/ Some of his intended clients/ Had sipped an antidote marked Grace,/ And wore a holy flower named Love."

Let us sip of grace, clothing ourselves in love rather than envy. Let us say, "Christ, You are enough for me."


TAKE TIME TO REFLECT:

I can recall a time in my life when envy destroyed: 

___________________________________________.


TAKE TIME TO REVIEW:

from Best Devotional Commentary - "What Cain should have done when he heard God's words of judgment is to have fled to God, rather than from Him. He should have fallen on his knees and begged God, however great his sin, to forgive that sin and not allow it or anything else to drive him from God's presence. ... Cain, we are told, 'went out from the Lord's presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden (v.16). Do not let it be true of you that you 'went out from the Lord's presence.' Flee to Him, and find in Him the One you have needed all along" (Boice).

from Best Academic Commentary - "Alienation from God leads to fear of other men (cf. Job 15:20-25). Certainly it is the fear of retribution that is the heart of Cain's complaint. 'Anyone who finds me will kill me.' Whom he feared has perplexed commentators, since according to the Genesis account there was no one else around but his parents. This may indicate that the story of Cain and Abel was originally independent of the stories in chapters 2 and 3. However, it is unlikely that the editor was unaware of the problem created by juxtaposing chapters 3 and 4 in this way (cf. Westermann, Gunkel). Most probably he envisaged other descendants of Adam seeking to avenge Abel's death" (Wenham).

from Best Preaching/Teaching Commentary - "I would word the expository idea in this way: Those who worship must have as their goal always to please God so that they will not allow sin (envy and hatred) to work its ruinous ways in their lives. This formulation centers on the warning that God gave Cain but includes all the major facets of the story. Anytime a person is filled with envy and anger over God's blessing on others, there will be disaster if that anger is allowed to run its course. Cain has become the abiding example of this pattern" (Ross).