Monday, May 6, 2024

Dealing with Cain's Login Errors

Suggested Reading: Genesis 4:1-16

Not long ago I had one of those frustrating computer moments. I was trying to login to one of my online accounts and I kept getting the error message that my user ID and password didn't match. So I kept trying different passwords in an attempt to get something to work. Nothing did. I just kept getting that same error message. After about 15 attempts I finally stopped long enough to look at my user ID and noticed that I had left out a letter in the ID. After that, I tried the very first password again and within seconds I had logged in. I felt rather embarrassed that I had gotten so frustrated about forgetting my password only to discover that something else had been the problem all along.

In the story of Cain and Abel we see a similar dynamic in Cain's descent to murder. He and his brother had both brought offerings to the Lord but only Abel's had been accepted, probably because Abel had offered the first fruits, the first-born of his herds, while Cain had just brought some of the produce the ground had produced, not the first fruits of his crops. Whatever the reason, God had a conversation with Cain about the rejection of his offering, asking "Why are you so angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?" (Genesis 4:6-7, NIV). The fact that Cain then went out and murdered his brother Abel would seem to indicate that his anger was directed in the wrong place. He either murdered Abel because his brother had made him angry by showing him up (not an uncommon emotional response) or in order to get back at God for accepting Abel's offering but not his own. In either case, Cain directed his anger and probably the blame for his failure somewhere other than where it should have been: on himself.

Quite often, as sinful human beings, we find ourselves doing horrible things we never would have imagined doing beforehand: killing people, having affairs, cheating on our taxes, lying. And quite often the first step along the path to those unimaginable deeds is blaming someone else for our own failures. Affairs often start because one spouse blames the other for not meeting his or her unrealistic expectations. Cheating on taxes or stealing from the office is justified because we manage our money poorly and then blame the government for taking too much or our bosses for not paying us enough. The first step on the road to unimaginable deeds is frequently placing the blame for our failures anywhere but on ourselves, which, apparently, is exactly what Cain did.

Have you experienced anger so deep that you feel tempted to do things you know are wrong? Have you felt so cheated or under-appreciated that you consider doing things that would previously have been unfathomable? If our reaction to those feelings is the temptation to knowingly do something wrong, we have a problem. Instead of placing blame on other people for our own failures, lets take good long looks at ourselves. Just like when trying a dozen different passwords instead of checking the user ID, putting the blame in the right place will help us fix our problems a whole lot faster than laying our failures at someone else's feet.

Only Casting Out the Annoying Demons

Suggested Reading: Acts 16:16-34 There is a sentence in Acts 16 that has always bugged me. Paul and Silas were in Philippi as missionari...