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Beware the Beast


Beware the Beast, by Marvin Bryant

I reread the account of Cain and Abel again this morning and was surprised at how contemporary it is.
When God did not have regard for Cain and his offering, Cain became angry, and his face fell, meaning he was sad or disappointed (Genesis 4:4). His reaction shows how strong his desire for approval and acceptance was.

It seems to me that most of us share Cain's strong desire for approval, whether it be through thumbs up on our posts, praise for what we offer to others, or acceptance in friendship. When we do not receive it, we, too, are disappointed or even angry.

In Cain's case these feelings were so powerful that he killed the one who did receive approval. Have you ever felt hurt or angry when you were not approved and then lashed out at someone else who was? You may want to prayerfully search your heart on that one. It's not necessarily easy to see the connection.
This part of Scripture tells me that the One whose approval I really need is God's. Cain had that much on us. Seeking the approval of people is extremely dangerous and can keep us from gaining God's approval (John 5:44).

This account also tells me that God's approval is based not merely on what I do for him (my "offering") but on who I am and how I live. There is no indication that the problem was with Cain's offering. God had not yet given any instructions about what kinds of sacrifices he desired, and when he did later on, the fruit of the ground would be an important part of what he wanted (Deuteronomy 26:2, 10).

Rather, the problem was with Cain himself. God's lack of regard was "for Cain and his offering" (Genesis 4:5). Likewise his regard was "for Abel and his offering" (Genesis 4:4). The reason Cain was not accepted is that he did not "do well" (Genesis 4:7), referring to how he was living. If I want God's approval, I must be a godly person. And I certainly must not think my worship pleases him if I am not living right (Isaiah 1:10-17; Amos 5:21-24; Romans 12:1).

In addition to showing us that the approval we really need is God's and that we get it by who we are and how we live, this account also teaches me to beware the beast. This is the meaning of the enigmatic statement, "If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it" (Genesis 4:7). Sin is here pictured as a wild breast, crouching near us, ready to pounce. Peter, too, warns us that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

One of the times we are most vulnerable to the beast is when we do not do well (Genesis 4:7). The anger or sadness of rejection may lead us to "murder" (Matthew 5:21-22) or even to murder. In either case, the beast has had his way with us. If we do not learn to rule over him, we will be devoured by him (Galatians 5:15). Note well: in times of sadness or anger, we can be especially oblivious to the fact that he is crouching right at our door. Beware the beast!
--Marvin Bryant