Summary: The story of Cain is the story of a man determined to do life his way rather than God’s way. It didn’t work then. It won’t work now.
I Did It My Way
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Introduction: If our text were a movie, I have the perfect musical soundtrack for it. It is the song Frank Sinatra made famous. In fact, it became his theme song. Sinatra co-wrote and recorded “I Did It My Way” in 1968. Many who knew Sinatra suspected that the song was part music and part autobiography. The lyrics sound the determined voice of a man who had experienced a lot of ups and downs in life. But even when life didn’t turn out the way he wanted, he stood his ground. No one was going to tell him what to do. Listen to the opening verse. “And now, the end is here And so I face the final curtain/ My friend, I’ll say it clear I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain/ I’ve lived a life that’s full I traveled each and ev’ry highway / And more, much more than this, I did it my way.”
“I Did It My Way” is more than Sinatra’s theme. It is also the story of human nature. But not just human nature in general. Yours and mine included. Our insistence on our way rather than God’s way explains a lot of human experience. That song would make the perfect sound track for our text!
Genesis 4 is part of the preface to the Bible. The preface is that part of a book that explains what’s to come. To picture it another way, the first eleven chapters of Genesis are like the little legend in the corner of a map. The legend shows you to how to tell up from down, where to start, and how to understand the little details. That’s what the opening pages of the Bible do. If you skip that, you will have trouble understanding what follows.
Genesis 1 reveals the origin of the world we live in. Life is not an accident. Genesis 2 describes who we are and what sets humans apart from the rest of the universe. Genesis 3 explains what went wrong and why the world we live in is so different than our wishes and dreams. Genesis 3 analyzes the root of evil. Genesis 4 pictures its fruit. Disobeying God has consequences. Not all of it immediate. Sometimes children reap what their parents sow.
Our story begins with the birth of two brothers. Genesis 4 picks up where Genesis 3 ends. Sin had entered God’s perfect world. It came in through an open window near the dark corner where God’s rule and man’s freedom meet. Both sides of the equation are true. God is in control. Yet he loves us enough to allow us room to choose to love him back or not. The first parents chose poorly.
Adam and Eve no longer lived in the paradise God made for them. Their children were born and raised where all families live—outside of Eden. Adam and Eve left the garden but they didn’t lose hope. God had promised that someday a child would be born who would change the course of history. He would undo the evil that had been loosed (Gen 3:15). We don’t know all that was going through Eve’s mind. But when her first child was born, she seemed to think this was it. She named him Cain, a word which meant gotten or acquired. She saw her first born son as God’s gift and her solution. She hoped he was the promised deliverer.
By the time her second came along, Eve no longer voices that same hope. She names her next son Abel, a name related to the word for vanity or vapor. Eve previews Ecclesiastes assessment of life’s futility, “vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” Or James’ reminder that life is but a vapor or mist. Here for a little while and quickly gone. Eve began her family with such hope then reality set in.
It’s that way for lots of families. Remember all those pictures of baby number one. The baby book records every little detail. Number two comes along. The pictures are fewer and farther between. The scrapbook contains only the highlights. By number three, the new has worn off and mom and dad are worn out. Number three is lucky to have a couple of spare pages in the back of number two’s scrap book. Who has time to take pictures?
I wonder how Eve’s change of attitude affected her two boys. We will never know for sure. Perhaps Cain grew up pampered, proud, entitled and convinced he couldn’t do anything wrong. Maybe Abel couldn’t do anything right, the object of his parents’ frustrations. We do know that Cain works the family farm. His younger brother ends up on the back forty herding the sheep. Two brothers born of the same parents and raised in the same family yet so different! They were just as different on the inside. Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, the Prodigal Son and the Elder Brother—this is not the last time we hear this story.