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Archive for February 26th, 2019

Genesis 4: A Demon Lurking


Genesis 4: A Demon Lurking

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tissot: Cain Leads Abel

It is likely that we each have our own definition for sin and we may want to compare it with what we find in Genesis 4 when we hear the Creator warning Cain: Why are you so resentful and crestfallen?  If you do well, you can hold up you head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door; his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.

We are only a few pages into the Bible and God describes to us what sin is and how it can steal into our hearts almost without our knowing. How is it that we miss the personal implications for our own development when we hear this story?  Cain is told what sin is and is cautioned about sin.  God does not withdraw his love yet Cain seems to feel slighted and he appears to think only of himself and his own sadness; he does not celebrate Abel’s good fortune but instead takes Abel out into the fields to murder him.  The ground that Cain had tilled now becomes a killing field; and the innocent Abel dies without reproducing his own family.  As this chapter unfolds, we see that the chain of violence begun by Cain continues through his descendants and, we suppose, continues through time even to us.  Sin that has been unleashed in the world continues to be a demon lurking at the door which we have the power to master yet somehow do not.

Commentary will elucidate further for us.  Although Cain and Abel may represent nomadic versus sedentary farmers, or rival ways of life, Cain’s act of violence represents “an attack on the integrity of the family, an offense against the divinely intended order of creation expressed in the command to reproduce.  But Cain’s sin is more than a rejection of the divinely established order; in arrogating to himself the divine sovereignty over life in ending a life, Cain has repeated the sin of his parents by making himself ‘like God’.”  (Mays 887)

When we think of sin we are accustomed to feeling less worthy, less hope-filled, more culpable, more ashamed.  When we think of sin we think of turning away from God, of being self-centered and un-controlled and we forget about God’s grace and God’s love.  Rather than give ourselves an overwhelming obstacle to overcome, how much better we might fare if we focused instead on how God loves us and wants to help us.  In short, rather than fuss with ourselves about how poorly we are doing we might feel more successful if we focus instead on giving our feelings of resentment, disappointment and anger over to God.  Knowing that we may too easily succumb to the devil that prowls at the door, let us give our negativity to the one who converts it into goodness.  Let us acknowledge the negative emotions that sneak up on us, and then instead of acting on them . . . let us turn them over to God.

Sin has been described as the willful turning away from God, and in turn this means a turning away from hope.  In this season of Advent, as we prepare ourselves for the coming of the light into the darkness of the world, let us take a journey inward to uncover the Cain in each of us.  And rather than take our brother into the fields to kill him in the place where we have harvested goodness in God’s name, let us celebrate the good fortune of others . . . and turn over all resentment to God.  In this way we easily and happily turn the tables on the demon who constantly lurks at our door.


A re-post from December 4, 2011.

Image from: http://www.artfire.com/ext/shop/product_view/vintagecharming/3784014/Cain_and_Abel_1904_James_Tissot_Chromolithograph_Print/Ephemera

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 887. Print.

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