Summary: No matter what Cain might lead us to believe, we are our brother’s keeper.
After God finished creating a perfect world for us to live in, He gave us the capacity to manage and affect that world. With that privilege and responsibility, human beings allowed sin to enter into the world. Once sin entered the picture, a creation that God had declared "very good" began to deteriorate. The descent was accelerated by lies. First there was the lie that Eve believed from the serpent, "You will not die." From that point on, it seemed that there was a twistedness in the minds of people. The truth became shaded and distorted so that it didn’t have to mean what it really meant. Spinning words into half-truths is not a political invention of the twentieth century. It goes back to the earliest days of the human race.
In Genesis 4 we have recorded what happens when someone allows a lie to take root in their mind. Two brothers, Cain and Abel brought sacrifices to the Lord. Cain was a farmer who tilled the land and so his sacrifices were fruit. Abel evidently was a shepherd, so when he brought his sacrifice, it was from what he had, livestock. But there was more of a difference in their sacrifice than what was brought. There was a difference in the quality. While Abel brought the best he had, Cain evidently brought only whatever he could scrape up. God noticed the difference. While he was pleased with Abel’s sacrifice, He didn’t think much of what Cain brought. Cain became jealous of the fact that his brother’s sacrifice was acceptable to God while his was not.
In his anger, Cain lured Abel out into the fields and killed him in a fit of rage. It was a terrible crime, the first murder. Not long after that God approached Cain with a question that the all-knowing one already knew the answer to. He said, "Cain, where is your brother, Abel?" Cain’s response is classic. "I don’t know! Am I my brother’s keeper?" Can’t you see the lie that has already taken root in the mind of Cain? In satisfying himself that his actions were appropriate, he has already begun to justify the murder of his brother by believing, "He’s not my responsibility, I have enough to take care of myself."
Although there aren’t many of us who bear the guilt of killing another person, like Cain, I wonder how many times we are content to sit idly by and watch the people around us die, all the while using the excuse of the world’s first murderer, "Hey, it’s not my responsibility! Am I my brother’s keeper?"
If you’re looking for a "No" answer to that question, you better not ask James. He is certain that the answer is "Yes, you are your brother’s keeper." As he closes out his letter, he leaves no doubt about it. Listen to what he has to say.
Read James 5:19-20
Now you cannot fail to recognize how important James thinks this is. Not only does he end his letter with a challenge to be our brother’s keeper, but he has devoted the last five chapters to the task itself. He has been focused on turning sinners like us from the error of our ways. (This is the fourteenth week we have focused on the book of James. Thanks for hanging with me in this series, and thanks for being such great listeners) As we have worked through this letter, remember the direction James has offered us.
1. Don’t give in to the temptation to quit when you face trials. Instead allow God to use them to shape you into who He wants you to be.
2. Don’t think that you can just sit around and say, "I have placed my faith in Jesus, so there is nothing more to do." Put your faith to work and do something in response to God’s grace.
3. Be very careful not to treat people unfairly based on who they are or how much money they have. Treat everyone with love.
4. Don’t let your tongue get you into trouble. Instead turn it over to God and let Him set the standards of your speech.
5. Use the resources that God has given you in a godly fashion, and don’t take advantage of others who don’t have as much as you.
6. However, if you are taken advantage of, don’t retaliate. Be patient in your suffering and God will reward you richly.
7. Don’t try to make it through this life on your own, but involve God in every aspect of your life. If you do, you will be blessed and God will be glorified.
And even within those big themes from James’ letter, there are strong directions for us to tell the truth at all times, to turn our plans for the future over to God, to pursue wisdom, and to withstand temptation. When it is all said and done, you see what James is doing, don’t you. James is being his brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. He is taking the time and making the effort to turn sinners from the errors of their ways. And with the last breath of his letter, he tells us all to go and do the same for other people.