Imagine a scene with me. You’re watching the news one night, and on it comes a report about a man who murdered his brother. The first thought that comes to your mind is why would somebody do that? What would lead someone to kill their own flesh and blood? So you continue watching the coverage and learn later that this man murdered his brother over God’s approval.
That would be a strange story wouldn’t it? Yet that is exactly the picture painted in Genesis 4:2-16. It’s the story we know as Cain and Abel, the first story of murder we have in the Bible. If you think about it though, this is ultimately a murder fueled by God’s favor, or the lack of it in Cain’s case.
Cain and Abel both bring an offering to God. Only Abel’s offering is looked on with favor. Funny thing is that the text doesn’t really seem to indicate why Cain’s offering wasn’t accepted by God. All we know is that Cain isn’t very happy with God that his offering wasn’t viewed favorably and that he is angry at Abel because his offering was accepted by God.
This anger was volatile enough that Cain killed his own brother. The lack of God’s approval at that moment caused rage that burned so hot and incensed him so much that the result was calculated murder. The approval or disapproval of God was such a strong motivator that led a man to murder his own brother.
As I said sounds strange right? We would never murder each other over God’s favor or approval would we? The more I think about this though, the more I wonder if it’s really true. Oh sure, we may not literally murder each other over it, but I wonder if we just murder each other in other ways.
We’ve all heard the stories of people whose faith has been practically murdered by churches or organizations who treat questions with contempt. Who view any deviation from their beliefs as unforgivable sin. How is that murdering for God’s approval? Well sometimes I wonder that these churches, organizations, or denominations think that nobody could really experience God, let alone his favor, and be different than them. So with anger and self-righteousness they take the faith of that person or group of people and murder it. The beat it and break it with accusations and scorn and leave it dying on the ground.
It’s easy to look at an example like that, but what about deep inside of us? Maybe we feel that God hasn’t been too visible in our lives. Maybe it seems that we’ve lost God’s favor or that we’re not even on his radar. We’ve been waiting for direction and guidance and only received silence. Then we hear from a friend who is feeling God’s purpose or plan in exciting ways in their lives. More than that, we can even see the vibrancy of their faith and closeness to God in their lives.
How does that make us feel? Are we able to truly be happy for them? Or do we become jealous of such things? Filled with resentment towards God, our friend, and even ourselves. Maybe such things wouldn’t lead us to literal murder, but I wonder if there isn’t a spark of jealousy and maybe even anger over such things.
If those feelings take root we can easily become resentful of that person and their relationship with God. We can then sabotage our relationships or even try to do harm to that person by belittling them or causing them to doubt that the steps they’re taking are really from God. As we stew in our own anger and jealousy it can be so easy to murder the life and faith of another.
So who have you murdered for God’s approval?