Before sin is an action of our hands it is a condition of our heart.
The story of Cain and Abel is not designed to make us moral, but to make us aware. We must not read the story and then try to be better than Cain – for that is exactly the impulse that led Cain to murder Abel. Instead, we must read this story and see the terrible reality of sin. It is a pervasive reality, it is rooted in our own pride, it is a powerful enemy, it’s only solution is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Situation: Punished but NOT without Promise
The consequences of sin are real and widespread. The fall of man changed everything! Truly, there was no part of creation unaffected by Adam’s sin, including Adam’s family. Adam and Eve are living East of Eden, outside of God’s presence, but not removed from his promise.
The Sin: Pride not Performance
Cain and Abel both “worship” God. However, Abel offers his best to God, while Cain selfishly retaines his best. Cain becomes angry and offended that God does not accept his offering. Before Cain raised his violent hands up against Abel, he raised his prideful heart up against God. Just like Cain, our sin begins in our hearts before it moves to our hands.
The Solution: Do Well and Be Accepted
God’s command to “do well” is not simply a command to try harder. The content of the command to do well is revealed in the next line of the text: rule over the sin that wants to rule over you. The only way that Cain can rule over his sin is to humbly put his trust in the promised seed of the woman (Jesus, the Messiah) who will crush the serpent (Satan). Instead, Cain chooses to trust in his own religious performance. God is offering Cain a chance to be accepted. Cain refuses.
The Story: Crime and Punishment… and Protection
Cain rises up against Abel. He throws his brother down and ends his life because he wants to elevate himself. As in the garden with Adam, God pursues the sinner. He questions Cain, Cain refuses to repent (again), so God punishes this murderer. Cain’s response is to play the victim, but God will not let him off so easily. God will punish Cain, but he will also protect him.