3-5 Time passed. Cain brought an offering to God from the produce of his farm. Abel also brought an offering, but from the firstborn animals of his herd, choice cuts of meat. God liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering didn’t get his approval. Cain lost his temper and went into a sulk.
6-7 God spoke to Cain: “Why this tantrum? Why the sulking? If you do well, won’t you be accepted? And if you don’t do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it’s out to get you, you’ve got to master it.”
(Genesis 4:3-7, The Message)
I’ve always read this passage with the emphasis on Cain’s inability to please God, wondering what hoops I have to jump through to make him happy. I still don’t understand why God rejected his offering, but today the emphasis strikes me differently. Today this phrase jumps off the page: Cain lost his temper and went into a sulk.
This completely changes the story for me.
How many times during the week do I lose my tempter and go into a sulk? I may not flop on the floor like a two year old, but my heart grows bitter and angry when circumstances prevent me from getting my way.
When my kids won’t leave me alone to read my book? Sulk. When my schedule fills up and I can’t write? Sulk. When my kids get sick and I have to cancel my plans? Sulk.
Enough sulk sessions in a row, and before you know it I’m spiraling into a depression.
When God speaks in verse 6-7, he does not address Cain’s offering and the reasons why he rejected it, he doesn’t address Cain’s actions. God addresses Cain’s attitude. He’s calling Cain out on his reaction. It seems the bigger issue to God is not what Cain does for him, but how he responds to him.
The NIV says it like this, “Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.'”
Cain has a worship disfunction. Like me, he places a greater emphasis on what he wants the outcome to be, and when it doesn’t happen that way, he sulks. He does more than sulk, actually. He allowed his anger to master him.
Cain had words with his brother. They were out in the field; Cain came at Abel his brother and killed him (Genesis 4:8, The Message).
Anger gone mad.
What struck me as I read this, is God’s unfailing love toward me. He doesn’t say, If you don’t do well I will turn my back on you, or If you don’t do well I’ll stop loving you, or If you don’t do well I will make you suffer for it. He says, If you don’t do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce.
God loves Cain, and he wants him to do the right thing. He knows if Cain steps outside of his “circle of safety,” he’ll be consumed by his own anger. I am loved by a God who looks through my actions and knows when my heart begins to grow bitter. I am loved by a God who doesn’t turn his back on me, but warns me when I’m putting myself in danger.
Truth be told, my heart’s been clenched, tight fisted, closed for a long time – the heart of Cain. But I feel sobered by this, the logical conclusion of Cain’s story, and I am motivated by God’s love as He continues to pursue me.
Motivated to change the way I react when circumstances don’t go my way: No more sulking!