Why Are Families So Painful? Part 1

Why Are Families So Painful? Part 1

Genesis 4:26b – “At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.”

The Bible is the most honest book ever written, and only a few pages in, it gives us the honest account of how sin makes family relationships so painful. Not long after God said that everything was “very good” when He was done creating it, everything went very bad starting with the first marriage and first siblings. In varying degrees, we have all felt this particular pain of the fall firsthand. Often, it is our closest family members who cause our deepest pain and problems.

This episode of Genesis shows how quickly and tragically the sin of Adam and Eve spread to their sons. Importantly, this text also shows us that the first children in the history of the world were born after the fall which means that every human being was thereafter conceived with a sin nature without exception.

The account opens with Eve likely boasting that, though she brought sin and death into the world, she was also going to fix it through birthing her son Cain. She wrongly thought this would fulfill the promise of redemption through a son from Genesis 3:15 that was intended for Jesus to fulfill many years later. The brothers Cain and Abel worked as a farmer and herdsmen, which are both honorable trades.

As acts of worship, the brothers both brought offerings to the Lord, but the Lord rejected Cain’s offering and received Abel’s. This greatly angered Cain and the Lord warned Cain to control his anger lest it consume him and lead him into sin.

Bible commentators have been perplexed to understand why God rejected Cain’s offering. Some have speculated that Abel’s gift was an animal fit for sacrifice, while Cain’s gift was not and thereby an unfit gift, which explains why it was rejected by God. The Genesis text does not say there was anything wrong with either gift for four reasons:

  1. They brought “offerings” and not sacrifices as the text clearly states. Therefore, Cain’s offering was appropriate.
  2. Both men brought their offerings to God, which is appropriate.
  3. The men both brought offerings in keeping with their employment, which is also appropriate.
  4. The men both brought “firstfruits”, which means it was the first and best of their possession as is common throughout the rest of Scripture (Ex 23:15-19; Nu. 18:12-13; Nu. 28:26; Dt. 26:1-11).

The problem with Cain’s offering was not what he brought to worship in his hands, but rather what he brought to worship in his heart, namely sin. Cain was jealous of his brother (1 John 3:12) and sought to worship God apart from faith (Hebrews 11:4). This section of Genesis reveals to us that true worship must proceed from the heart of someone whose faith is in God, otherwise their actions are an offense to God. In this scene, Cain serves as the pattern for religious people who do things outwardly to perform for others, but do not love God inwardly from the heart. For God to be pleased, our worship must include both our hearts and our hands. In the same way, a loving father is not pleased with an unrepentant and stubbornly unfaithful and unloving, hard-hearted child that seeks to manipulate him with a token gift.

Tomorrow, we will look at how Cain takes his anger even further, causing him to sin grievously and non-reversibly against his brother, Abel.

Where have you seen jealously manifest itself in your life? Pray to ask God to forgive you of this jealousy and help you not to hold malice in your heart for that person.

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Mark Driscoll
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