by Kristen C. Strocchia
“Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” Genesis 4:8
I wonder how old Cain and Abel were when this tragic event occurred. How Abel loved and trusted Cain and had no idea what his brother was plotting. Today, most of us see an angry person, or a jealous person, and we’ve seen enough TV shows, news broadcasts and movies to know not to go with when invited into an otherwise innocuous field–at least not alone.
But obviously, this was before the rise of internet, cell phones, television, radio, telegraph, or even the Pony Express. This was even before the advent of the Brothers Grimm fairytales and Aesop’s fables, both of which warned children of the evil in the world. There were no stories of stranger danger or–as the case was here–not-so-stranger danger.
There was only loving, trusting, carefree Abel and his big brother Cain with whom he had laughed and played while growing up. Did they sleep in tree branch bunks? Build forts with vine swings or manual dumbwaiter-elevators? Did they race and climb and shout, “I win!”? Did one excel over the other in learning all of the animals’ names when Adam surely showed them everything in God’s Creation? Did they dream of doing something great to please their loving God?
Perhaps. But the sin that their parents allowed into the world seeped deep into their hearts as well. Cain felt the disappointment of not measuring up in one instance and there was no 12-step program for managing that guilt. There was, however, God as Mighty Counselor who came along side Cain and tried to make him aware of his sin before it was too late.
I wonder, did Cain know that his attack was going to end in his brother’s death? We know he’d never seen a dead person before. Did he even know it was possible to take someone else’s life breath away? He may have seen an animal slaughtered occasionally in his lifetime to provide new clothes as God prescribed. Was he testing it out? Or was he just so suddenly overcome by rage that nothing mattered except releasing his very violent jealousy?
Whatever exactly occurred, we need to know that this history was recorded for our understanding. In the New Testament, Jesus warned the religious leaders of His day that being innocent of murder was not enough to be considered righteous before God.
Matthew 5:22 clearly tells us that anyone who is angry with his brother–meaning any fellow human being, not just actual brothers–is in danger of the fires of hell. And the apostle Paul warned the Ephesians not to sin in their anger [Ephesians 4:26]. Clearly, allowing anger to seed itself in our hearts is a very dangerous Russian Roulette. Anger is not easily controlled, particularly in a heated moment with the person with whom we are angry. And full grown, the seed of anger grows into murder.
Jesus said don’t allow murderous seeds into your heart. The apostle Paul warned that when we are angry we have to master the crouching tiger of Genesis 4:7 and not sin, just as God warned Cain not to do. But Cain gave up that battle, he surrendered to his anger and murdered his little brother.
Do you struggle with anger? Ask God to help you understand its root. Ask Him to help you master the tiger that is crouching at your door. Ask God to help you surrender to Him alone, rather than to the violent seeds of anger that try to root themselves in the heart.