Insights from the book of Genesis – the story of Cain and what we can learn from it.
I will ommit the success story of someone mentioned at the end of this sermon – A truly remarkable story about a lady who was the exact opposite of the Biblical Cain
I will then conclude with my comments regarding these morals, creativity and my take on things:
I had looked at it many times, but had never noticed the gem embedded in it. It was like discovering that the design on the “Dr. Pipe the Plumber” magnet on my refrigerator was really a map leading to buried treasure.
The passage is the Torah’s narrative about Cain and Abel. Cain, the elder son of Adam and Eve, was a farmer. At some point he got the brilliant idea to bring an offering to God from his crops. He brought the worst of his produce. (As my 15-year-old son explains, “Why should he have brought the good stuff? He knew that God wasn’t going to eat it anyway.”
His younger brother Abel, who was a shepherd, imitated the idea but he brought the best of his flock. God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s. This made Cain angry and depressed.
At that point, God spoke to Cain. This is the first communication from God to human beings post Eden. It comprises two verses in Genesis [4:6-7], and is really (how could I have missed it before?) a four-point program for succeeding in life.
“And God said to Cain: Why are you angry and why are you depressed? Surely, if you improve yourself, you will become elevated. And if you don’t improve yourself, sin crouches at the door. Its desire is to get you, but you can conquer it.”
#1. Your response to what happens to you is your own choice.
By asking Cain why he was depressed and angry, when God knew perfectly well that His rejection of Cain’s offering was the catalyst, God was pointing out that depression and anger are a choice. They are not the inevitable result of rejection, disappointment, or frustration. (In this article, I am not talking about chemically-based depression, but rather the mood of sadness that grips us when situations don’t go our way.)
Depression and anger are not the inevitable result of rejection and disappointment.
Expressions such as, “He made me angry,” and “I’m depressed because I didn’t get the job” betray a false worldview. Human beings have free choice as to how they will respond to the events in their lives. Being rejected by the person you desired to marry or the employer you wanted to work for or the landlord whose apartment you were dying to rent can lead to depression, but only if you choose to let it. The other option is to take responsibility for and to work on your reactions. This leads to God’s second point:
#2. The purpose of life is to work on improving yourself to elevate yourself spiritually.
After questioning Cain’s poor choice, God tells him what he should be doing: If he improves himself, he will become elevated spiritually. Self-improvement thus becomes the Divine imperative.
Until this Divine communication, Cain may have thought that the purpose of his life was to grow vegetables, put bread on the table, earn a living. God lays it out straight: The purpose of human life is to improve yourself. This means elevating yourself spiritually. The alternative to getting angry or depressed is to work on improving your character traits, to learn to gracefully accept disappointments, without blaming or lashing out at those around you. This is hard work, which leads us to God’s third point:
#3. Life is a constant battle against your own negative inclinations.
God warns Cain that the force of negativity is “crouching at the door,” ready to pounce and attack throughout the day. Life is like a down escalator; if you are not struggling to go up, then you are automatically going down. Negative impulses such as hatred, jealousy, pettiness, resentment, and feelings of inadequacy or conceit try to get the best of you. Fighting against them is the challenge of life.
Recognizing that life is a battle against your negative inclinations means that you see life as a battlefield and view yourself as a committed warrior. The alternative is to see life as a dark alley and view yourself as a hapless victim caught by surprise by every mean mugger. (Negative impulses are muggers that try to rob you of your inner peace and joy.)
At this point Cain may have been at the brink of despair, worrying, “How will I ever overcome this host of negative inclinations? I’m a goner!” Thus, God’s fourth and final point is:
#4. You can succeed.
God assures Cain, “You can conquer the force of negativity. You can win this battle.” God understood that the human propensity to insecurity and fear of failure is vast. The spiritual 90-pound weakling will slither away without even bothering to fight. So God’s final exhortation to Cain was: You can win. Have the self-confidence to believe in the possibility of victory. You have what it takes to succeed in your spiritual life. You can succeed; you have the Creator’s word on it.
You have what it takes to succeed in your spiritual life. You have the Creator’s word on it.
Of course, we know the next scene: Cain completely spurns God’s counsel, let's himself be overcome by jealousy, and murders his brother Abel. The Cain Message turned into the Cain Mutiny. But it didn't have to go that direction
My take on this is:
- I ran away from certain facts mentioned here for most of my life, but now I realized:
- Presenting who you are to the world, bringing your true and generous creativity, sharing and not being afraid is a divine commandment.
- It will not always be accepted even by those closest to you, but it is something you must do, a battle you must fight ( I know it sounds depressing…), improving and getting stronger as you go.
- As to this lovely understanding of the biblical story: I must add that Cain was marked in order to prevent others from hurting or maybe killing him. My understanding is that the almighty marked him out of concern to his wellbeing, due to Cain's failure to endure criticism, and his failure to present his true creativity. The threat was real: One more human encounter would truly KILL Cain – The people would not physically harm him on purpose – Cain, slipping down the slippery slope of low confidence and frustration could no longer live through any kind of human interaction. He had to be marked by God for people to stay away.