Summary: What responsibility do I have toward other people?
Iliff and Saltillo UM Churches
July 21, 2002
“Am I My Brother’s Keeper?”
INTRODUCTION: Today’s scripture opens with God asking Cain a question. it was a question that Cain already knew the answer to, but he gave a rather flippant, arrogant answer. God simply asked, “Cain where is your brother Abel?” Cain answered, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The New Living Translation says, “I don’t know! Am I supposed to keep track of him wherever he goes?”
Cain had an attitude problem. He had a meanie on toward his brother in the first place and took him out in the field and killed him. God was zeroing in on him and putting him on the spot. He’s trying to get away from the pointed question by saying, “How do you expect me to know where he is? Am I my brother’s keeper? Am I supposed to follow him around every minute and know where he is? He’s not MY responsibility!”
I thought that this would be a very easy question to answer, but it is a thought-provoking one. Most people usually give a pat answer on this question.
How many would answer “yes”?
How many would answer “no”?
You probably have a variety of reasons why you answered as you did. Cain’s response to God was one of CALLOUSED INDIFFERENCE all too common throughout the whole course of human history. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” People say, “I’ve got enough to do to look after myself.” On the other hand, many times we quickly say, “Yes, I am my brother’s keeper,” but it turns out to be more of “a duty required but a duty geneerally neglected because of our own selfishness.” Matthew Henry said, “When a person is unconcerned in the affairs of others and takes no care when they have opportunity to prevent hurt--especially in their souls,--that person in effect speaks Cain’s language.”
1. “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?: What is the definition of KEEPER and who is OUR BROTHER? Does it mean taking RESPONSIBILITY for another person? Does it mean like Cain thought, “following him around all day and trying to keep track of what he does?” Does it mean nagging at a person about their bad habits or controlling what they say or do, making their decisions for them, bailing them out of their problems when they make bad choices, lying for them when they are in a pinch or any number of other things?
What does the word KEEPER mean to you?
And just who is OUR BROTHER? Does it refer to a FAMILY MEMBER or to a CHRISTIAN brother or to ANY PERSON as used in the sense of neighbor in the story of the Good Samaritan?
Are we commanded in Scripture to be our brother’s keeper?
These three questions:
1. What does KEEPER mean?
2. Who is our BROTHER
3. Are we commanded to be our brother’s keeper
is more thought provoking than we would think. Does scripture give us insight on these questions?
2. To Be or Not to Be: Should I be my brother’s keeper or should I strictly mind my own business? Well, scripture doesn’t come right out and give a commandment that says, “Thou shalt be thy brother’s keeper” in those words. It is not a part of the Ten Commandments either. Jesus gave a New Commandment in John 13:34 that said, “a new commandment I give you, Love one another as I have loved you so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”
In Matthew 22:38 Jesus answered the question, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment. He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is love your neighbor as yourself.”
The idea of keeper is to guard, watch, protect, oversee; but it doesn’t mean that we take on ownership for what others should be taking ownership for. We don’t enable people to continue doing wrong, cover for them by lying for them in order to keep them out of trouble. We don’t do for people what they should be doing for themselves. We don’t bail people out of situations time and time again. Sometimes parents do not allow their children to grow up by keeping them dependent upon them -telling them what to do--making their decisions for them. Some people think they are being their brother’s keeper by continually giving advice. We are not our brother’s keeper in that sense.
ILLUSTRATION: There was an EMT who stopped at a little restaurant and while he was there he got a phone call to come out on an emergency run. He asked the person in the next booth to tell the person that he couldn’t come because he was up in a tree trying to get a cat down. Actually he said, “I can’t go because I have been drinking.” So the person said, “He can’t come because he’s up in a tree trying to get a cat down.”