Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Monday, February 23, 2015

Roots of Anger

In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. – Genesis 4:3-5

Sometimes we see this as jealousy and sibling rivalry, especially as Abel is the younger brother.  The favored younger brother becomes a type that carries throughout Scripture:  Ishmael/Isaac, Esau/Jacob, Manasseh/Ephraim, Joseph was a younger brother, David was a younger brother, Solomon was not the first-born, and so on.  One could even say that Judaism and Christianity have a similar relationship, and that the Lord’s story of the Prodigal is, in part, about that interaction. 

Though Cain ultimately takes his anger out on his younger brother, it is caused by his own reaction to correction by God.  In rejecting the offering, the Lord does not reject Cain but wants him to understand the necessity of identification with what he offered.  The fruit of the ground which was given by Cain reflected no acknowledgement of his own sinful nature and the need for atonement.  By contrast, Abel’s sacrifice of blood indicates that he was aware of his unworthiness before God and sought to establish communion with the Almighty through confession and repentance. 

Jesus gives us a very similar story in Luke 18:9-14. 

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:  Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.  But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me, a sinner!  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

This, then, is most likely the sin of Cain that he exalted himself, considering himself above any reproach and consumed by self-righteousness.  It ends, of course, in murder with the spilled blood of “righteous Abel” crying out to God for justice.  Like Abel, the life of Jesus ended because of jealousy and self-righteousness.  The blood of One infinitely more righteous than Abel was shed by the hand of His brothers – that is, all of us.  Cain stands in for all of humanity as we find that our all our good works are inadequate and unacceptable, and that it is only the sacrifice of Jesus that can bring reconciliation. 

If, like Cain, we refuse to see the corruption in our hearts, it will cause only bitterness and further defilement.  What if Cain had, instead of bringing his own offering, participated in the sacrifice of Abel?  The Passover lamb was only one for a household.  Perhaps Adam served as the priest of the family.  Was there any need for Cain to try and appease God with the fruits of his own labor?  He could have joined in the communion with his brother and been accepted. 

The sacrifice of the Son to the Father is sufficient for all mankind, for all of us Cains out here.  We have only to set aside our own works and our own righteousness and receive the grace and forgiveness that Christ offers to us. 


Rick said...

"The favored younger brother becomes a type that carries throughout Scripture: ...One could even say that Judaism and Christianity have a similar relationship"

This is good.

I think you would enjoy this book I'm reading on Origen's writings: "Spirit and Fire", if you haven't read it. He does this sort of thing a lot. Connects everything. Takes the whole Bible into consideration. A book of writings that's somewhat like reading MotT, I think.

mushroom said...

Thanks, Rick. It sounds good. I've been on a bit of a book buying spree lately -- for various reasons. I'll add that to my wish list.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Excellent post, Dwaine!
Jealousy, like envy, (often they go together) is destructive and leads go all kinds of evil. I reckon one can say they are the seeds of murder, theft, lyin', cheatin', pride (not the good kind, which leads to self righteousness like you mentioned), hate, bitterness, joylessness, a victim mentality, and more...all bad.

I'm always on the lookout for it within myself, because I don't ever want jealousy to take root in me.
Gotta always be on guard for it.

Jealousy will turn a person into an ugly, repulsive creature with a black heart.

The cure, of course is repentence, thankfulness, bein' humble, and learnin' to be happy when someone else is blessed by the Lord. :)

mushroom said...

Jealousy will definitely sneak up on me if I don't watch out.

Rick said...

Mush, eBay is also a good source for books as it turns out. For meself for Christmas I picked up a great bargain on a first edition of the 1947 English translation of the Summa Theologica. It's in very good shape.
I hope to get to it after the Origen book, but if not, or never, it's a good family heirloom. I think of it as a kind of cathedral of mental effort. One can prove a point by merely pointing to it. Such as to say similarly of cathedrals, could atheists or imposters ever create such a thing?

The Origen book was assembled and distilled by Balthasar which is an amazing achievement in its own right, I think, since they say Origen's writings span some two thousand books. That's no legend. The legend says six thousand.