When the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, rebelled against their Creator’s clear and good command, “sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Thus, Adam and Eve’s children were the first to inherit a sin nature—an inborn tendency to demand one’s own way. The biblical account of Cain and Abel is well known. God accepted the offering of Abel and rejected that of Cain. In turn, Cain became angry and murdered his brother. Uncontrolled anger, however, was not Cain’s core problem but was the fruit of a more corrupt root. In order to discern his real problem we need to take a look at the four times Cain is described in the Bible.
First, in Genesis 4, we learn that Abel was a shepherd while Cain was a farmer (v. 2). When it came time to bring an offering to the Lord, Abel brought what God required; Cain did not. God’s rejection of Cain’s offering sent Cain into a fit of anger and subsequent depression (v. 5). Left unbridled, Cain’s tantrum led him to become a slave to sin (v. 7), to commit murder (v. 8), and, finally, to lie to God (v. 9).
Second, in Hebrews 11, the “faith chapter,” we read that Abel brought “a better sacrifice than Cain” (v. 4), because he brought it in faith and righteousness. However, Cain is not credited with faith or righteousness since he did not regard God’s commands as authoritative. He did not trust God enough to walk by faith. His offering was, therefore, unacceptable because it did not meet God’s requirement.
Third, in the first letter written by John we learn something of the fuel that fanned the flame of Cain’s hatred toward his brother. The apostle John asks, “And for what reason did he [Cain] slay him [Abel]? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous” (3:12). Cain so despised God’s ways that he sought to destroy anyone who reminded him of God’s righteous standards, including his own brother.
Fourth, we find Cain mentioned in the book of Jude, which was written to urge believers to oppose false teachers who were infiltrating churches. In describing these false prophets, Jude indicated that “they have gone the way of Cain” (v. 11). Why did he liken these heretics to Cain? Cain was not a false teacher. A brief look at the context, however, reveals the core problem of both parties. Jude describes them as “ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (v. 4); men who “defile the flesh, and reject authority” (v. 8); “without fear, caring for themselves” (v. 12); and “following after their own ungodly lusts” (v. 18).
Clearly, the “way of Cain” is the way of rebellion. It is the way of all those who despise and reject authority. Cain refused to acknowledge that anyone, including God, had any right to control his behavior. He was his own boss. His willful spirit had never been broken and brought to the place of willing submission. Herein lies the challenge for parents: if we do not lovingly teach our children to respect and obey our authority, our children may in turn grow up to reject other forms of divinely delegated authority and eventually despise God, who is the source of all authority. Children who are not trained to submit to authority figures they can see may, apart from a transforming work of God’s grace, face a lifelong struggle to submit to the God whom they cannot see. Knowing this tendency of sinful human nature, faithful parents will purge stubbornness and defiance from their child’s will so that one day the child may say with David, “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). God’s most basic command to children is to honor and obey their parents. When we fail to train our children to obey God—by obeying their parents—we prepare them to live lives of self-centered rebellion, and we are guilty of raising Cains.
[Excerpted from HELP! My Toddler Rules the House by Paul & Karen Tautges]
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