Summary: When jealousy or anger rears its ugly head, what do we do? The story of Cain provides us with some valuable answers.

A woman testified to the transformation in her life that had resulted through her experience in conversion. She declared, "I’m so glad I found Jesus. I have an uncle I used to hate so much I vowed I’d never go to his funeral. But now, why, I’d be happy to go to it any time."

Have you ever felt that way about someone? For some the older they get the more they struggle with anger. Maybe its because you grow tired sooner, or maybe its because you don’t slow down enough and learn to be still. But somehow anger grows.

I tried to figure out why anger is so easy to become our friend.

Here are a few…

Reasons We Are Angry

1. We’re self-centered. Like a child who can’t have their way they’re going to take their ball and go home. There are some areas we don’t care if we have our way, but the arenas that are our passion, when we don’t get our way then, watch out. That selfishness can rear its ugly head in the form of anger.

2. We get hurt and anger is our source of protection. We build up this tough guy wall and keep people at a distance with anger so we don’t have to risk getting hurt. It’s easier to be lonely and mad than to have friends and be betrayed.

3. We grow angry because we’re overbooked. We cut more string away from an already short fuse and we reach our explosion point sooner. We think we can add more to our rushed lives and stilled be able to find control.

4. Anger is part of our life because the life we have isn’t the life we expected. Our kids aren’t turning out as we had hoped. Maybe you’re not married to the person you thought you were marrying. Your job is stressful. Your health is not good. Your debt load is too high. Gas prices are high. Life just isn’t what we had hoped it would be and you find yourself frustrated.

After spending 3-1/2 hours enduring long lines, rude clerks and insane regulations at the Department of Motor Vehicles, Glenn Vaughan stopped at a toy store to pick up a gift for his son. “I brought my selection - a baseball bat - to the cash register,” he said. "Cash or charge?" the clerk asked. "Cash," He snapped. Then apologizing for his rudeness, he explained, "I’ve spent the entire afternoon at the motor vehicle bureau." The woman sweetly replied, "shall I gift-wrap the bat…or are you going back there?"

5. Why do husbands grow angry with their wives and why do wives become angry with their husbands? Why do we get so angry when someone else receives the attention? It is the fifth reason, We don’t receive the attention we want. Anger turns to jealousy then.

How does this happen? You aren’t an attention seeker, but you do want attention from the ones you love. Maybe you don’t get jealous over another person’s success. I don’t get jealous when someone else is invited to speak somewhere where I would like to speak…but when the ones I love…the ones that possess my heart don’t give me the level of attention I think I need…my little feelings get hurt and I get jealous.

Jealousy has an ugly head. It wants to be made to feel special. That’s why young mothers have a difficult time when they give all of their needed attention and energy to young children in the home…the poor little husband has his ego hurt and he grows jealous of the children. But the same is true of a young husband or wife starting out in a career. They pour their energy and attention into their career wanting to make a difference and to be successful and their spouse grows jealous of their work because they have lost attention. The job, or the child, or the golf game appears to be more special than the spouse is. And we all want to feel special don’t we?

We want to have something special that is just yours. If you and your children have a special game you play and it’s all yours, it is what gives you identity with your kids and then some other person steps in and plays the same game with them, you’re stung and a little jealous.

Have you ever said or heard your spouse say, “Why don’t you get something done around here?” “This place is always a mess.” “Can’t you accomplish anything.” Besides being disrespectful the comment points to a problem. Jealous for attention.

Or have you ever thought of your spouse, “They are so lazy.”

“They can get stuff done for other people but they never get anything done for me.”

“They can turn on the charm for others, but heaven forbid if they ever act like I’m around and give me any attention.”

Or did you ever think of your parents… “I wish they would just notice me.”

About 4 years ago my mother-in-law asked me for a manuscript of a sermon that I had preached. They don’t listen to my sermons, so it surprised me and I was very much complimented that they would ask. I sent it to them. The next time we went to see them my father-in-law had circled in red all the times I had misspelled a word. It was the word “used.” Like, “I used to be angry.” I was spelling it “u-s-e.” No big deal, I say it the same way, but he wanted to point that out to me. I was very hurt by that. Why? If one of you would have said that it wouldn’t have hurt, but I thought they were giving me a compliment and they turned it into a put down. And it made me angry because I thought, “I don’t prepare manuscripts to be read by anyone but Scot and me. It doesn’t matter if I spell things phonetically, it is for me to preach.”

But just so you know, I always spell that word correctly now. And Scot doesn’t do it, so when he sends it to me I have to correct his. I hope me writing that does not have the same effect on Scot that my father-in-law did on me!

But that made me angry. At the heart of anger and jealousy is this need to be recognized, treated special, and paid attention to. Now granted there are people who are always childish and so self-centered that they are not socially or emotionally adapted to reality. They want their way all the time. But we’re talking about those who are socially adjusted and who are for the most part emotionally healthy. Those people are jealous and angry because they…we…are wounded because we don’t receive the attention we think we need.

Anger and jealousy have caused many to stumble, and some to stumble so far that there is no return.

Saul’s anger got him dethroned. Our anger dethrones us as well. Like Saul we lose respect…trust, and the willingness of others to be vulnerable when around us.

Jacob had 11 sons at the time. 10 of them were jealous of the youngest. They were so jealous that they sold him into slavery. In fact, they had to be talked out of killing him! But that son, Joseph, ended up in Egypt taking care of that entire part of the world during a famine. And those 10 brothers eventually ended up on their knees before their younger brother begging for mercy. Can you imagine doing that to your brother? If you can’t, you probably don’t have a brother!

The Sanhedrin walked away with murder. Their jealousy led them to crucify Jesus. They couldn’t stand it that the crowds gave their attention to someone else as a religious leader, other than them. Jealousy is what got Jesus crucified.

And then there is Cain. Maybe you know the story. Adam and Eve had Cain, then they had Abel. We don’t know if they were the firstborn or if they were down the line in the birth order but we do know they had these two children. It appears Cain was the firstborn and then later Abel was born.

I want you to notice that nowhere to our limited knowledge, has God told Adam and Eve or their children to offer sacrifices and yet what do we see Cain and Abel doing? Intuitively, as if it is built into them, they come before the Lord to worship Him by bringing sacrifices. I wonder if we can worship without sacrifice? Many try, but I don’t think God the Father accepts worship when there is no sacrifice. How do I know?

Cain brought some of his fruits of the land and Abel brought fat portions of his flocks to God. The issue wasn’t a grain offering versus an animal offering. The issue is the word “some” in the NIV translation

Genesis 4:3

“In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord.” (emphasis mine)

The NASB just said that he brought “an” offering. As if he were too flippant about it, as if giving God a tip instead of a sacrifice.

Genesis 4:4

But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering,

He brought his best…the first born…the healthy…the unblemished. God was pleased with Abel’s sacrifice because of the way that he brought it … his heart.

I. Anger begins with the measure of our effort.

We all have times when we feel like we don’t measure up. And when we have that feeling, envy and jealousy can be crouching at our door.

The story is told of a great English preacher, FB Meyer, and his struggle with jealousy. When another great English preacher, G. Campbell Morgan, returned to England after being in America, Meyer said to some friends, “It was easy to pray for the success of Morgan when he was in America.

But when he came to England and to a church near mine, it was something different. The old Adam in me was inclined to jealousy, but I got my heel upon his head, and whether I felt right toward my friend, I determined to act right.”

We have all been there, haven’t we? We like for our brothers and sisters to do well, until we are sitting at Thanksgiving dinner and they are giving everyone the details. Or we like them to do well as long as it isn’t something that can compare to what we are doing!

When our effort is less than is expected we feel guilty or our boss is angry. Or when the effort of someone else is accepted over our effort we get jealous and then get angry with the person who is favored.

William Penn said, “It is he who is in the wrong who first gets angry.”

Do you remember sitting in class in school and the teacher would commend a student for doing such excellent work? What did you think about that? What did you say? “Teacher’s pet.” Teacher’s pet? Why? Because they were striving for excellence and your weren’t? Were you hurt because they were smarter than you, as if that is their fault? Or was it that they put forth the effort and you didn’t?

You were mad that the teacher didn’t recognize you. You accused the other student of being the teacher’s pet. When the truth is, that child probably had put forth more effort. Often our effort is mediocre and that is what we want from everyone else … unless they are doing something for us!

I had to take Greek as part of the course requirements in college. I don’t know that I can say I really took it, saying it took me would be more accurate! In our second year, after we had learned the language (supposedly!) our teacher, Mr. Friskney, required us to turn in our study time. In college you are supposed to study 2 hours for every hour that you are in class. Since we were preaching students, he expected us to be honest, so he just had us give our study time as he called the roll. It was especially interesting on Monday. When kids would say 2 hours or more we would lay it on them … “teacher’s pet” “Oh, come on, get a life.” I can remember Dave Stone being called on and saying, “I was involved in ministry this weekend, leading people to Christ and visiting the sick.” We all laughed and Mr. Friskney correctly said, “I’ll take that as a zero!” You could see a lot of jealousy. Much of it was good-humored jealousy, but it was jealousy.

And that’s where we find Cain.

Genesis 4:2-5

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. [3] In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. [4] But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, [5] but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Cain just brought “some”. But do you see what the real issue is for Cain? “The Lord looked with favor on Abel, but on Cain he did not look with favor.” Like an athlete seeking the attention of the coach and never receiving it or a child competing for his parents’ attention, Cain was ignored by His Creator. Abel, was younger. Perhaps, this was Abel’s first sacrifice and Cain had been bringing sacrifices for years. Perhaps, Cain had been able to get by for years by bringing less than the best and now this younger brother, who doesn’t know the system, this younger brother who doesn’t know that everyone can’t afford to bring their best, is challenging the status quo. Cain is angry because His brother is moving in on his territory.

Ironically, the word “regard” or the word “favor” in Hebrew means, “paid attention to.” God paid attention to Abel’s offering but Cain’s offering he did not pay attention to. The root of jealousy is the amount of attention I think I deserve.

Cain is not only jealous that God is paying attention to Abel over him, but he’s embarrassed…he knows Abel is right. Anger begins by the measure of our effort. It’s not that Abel’s offering is that great, or the student sitting next to you is the teacher’s pet, or that the employee next to you is more knowledgeable …it’s about the effort you give. The amount of effort you put forth determines your level of anger when you don’t receive the attention.

The less effort, the more embarrassed you’ll be when someone else is recognized, which increases your anger.

It’s interesting to me that both types of offerings are accepted by God in the law that was to come later. God had a place for grain offerings and for animal offerings. It’s intriguing to me that Cain was so jealous because his grain offering was so lacking and yet later the law would require a grain offering for the sin of jealousy.

We struggle with anger and jealousy because we fail to give our best and we refuse to work hard. Many of you were taught as I was taught, to work hard, to do your best, to go beyond what is required. Do you know what is interesting about that? At the end of a hard day’s work when you can look back and take that cleansing breath of a job well done…you don’t care if someone else is recognized because you feel successful simply because of your own effort.

Cain’s effort was less than his best and his guilt, embarrassment, and sense of failure caused him to grow jealous, which led to anger. If you have jealousy issues, work harder, put forth a better effort. Don’t put it off until the last minute so you can do it with excellence.

You can’t receive the Lord’s favor with half an effort…so don’t expect to.

Genesis 4:6 & 7

Then the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? [7] If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."

The problem had nothing to do with Abel, even though that is who he was blaming. It was Cain’s problem. The easy thing would have been for Cain to change his heart. Cain could have asked for forgiveness or simply brought the best of his crop the next time. But it is always easier to lash out at someone else than to change yourself. So he doesn’t change, instead Cain grows jealous, eventually kills his brother and sin has transformed from eating untouchable fruit to murder.

The truth is God doesn’t accept us with half an effort. The Lord told Cain, “if you do what is right, you will be accepted.” What is right, is giving our best, mastering the temptation to be lazy, mastering the temptation to give half-heartedly, mastering the temptation to think that just because you showed up you’ve done enough.

In the book of Acts Ananias and Sapphira had a similar issue to Cain. They wanted to give to the church financially, but they wanted the church to recognize them for it. So they went out, sold a piece of ground and started to bring the money to the church. We don’t know how they decided to do what they did. Maybe on the way one of them said, “wait a minute, that sure is a lot to give. We have our retirement to think about. Our 401 k could be a little larger. And we are getting older. Who knows what will happen with our health, we might have some health care to pay for. Rita is going to drive those gas prices up again. Let’s not give it all, let’s just give half. 50%, that’s pretty good I think.”

Nothing wrong with 50%, not even in the Lord’s eyes, but where the trouble began was when they decided to deceive the church in order to get more platitudes. They wanted to give part, but get recognized for giving the whole amount.

They decided to say that they sold the property and were giving all of the money from the sale of the property to the church.

They lied to the apostles about what they were giving. Their motivation was all about getting attention so people would pat them on the back and think they are super Christians.

We do the same thing. Look at me pray. Look I’m serving. Look I’m carrying food. Look I’m volunteering. By the way, Ananias and Sapphira said, “Look how much we’re doing, Look how good of a Christian we are….” And they both dropped dead. God is not impressed with a deceptive, half-hearted effort.

But God told Cain, if you do what’s right, if you quit worrying about your accolades and just give your best, work hard, and serve me with excellence…you won’t care who notices. But sin had already crouched at the door of Cain’s heart.

II. Anger leads to death.

Cain’s level of anger grew to the point of explosion. He became so jealous of his brother that he killed him. It was a murder of guilt. Cain felt so guilty for not giving his best, he murdered his brother. It was a murder of jealousy. Cain must of thought, “How dare my younger brother move in and steal the attention from God and take center stage.”

Genesis 4:8

Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let’s go out to the field." And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

If Cain invited Abel to the field, then his plans were premeditated. He had planned all along to kill Abel. He thought, if I get rid of my brother, I get rid of my competition and my mediocre effort will become the best effort in town. If I get rid of my brother, I’ll get rid of this feeling of guilt and embarrassment before God.

Proverbs 14:30

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

We do the same thing, we just don’t use a knife, we use our tongue. We are jealous and so we gossip. We’re angry at someone and our words slice them up.

Ephesians 4:29-32

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. [30] And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. [31] Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. [32] Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

James 1:19

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,

Anger will lead to your death as well. Uncontrolled issues of jealousy will rot out your bones, it will eat you up inside and you may not die physically, but you will die spiritually; and emotionally you’ll be bankrupt because you’ll find yourself alone.

III. Anger always avoids the truth.

When you are angry, you won’t recognize the truth if it were spitting nails back at you. Anger blurs our thinking and desensitizes our spirit and numbs reality. When we’re angry we not only are blind to the truth we avoid the truth.

Genesis 4:9

Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" "I don’t know," he replied. "Am I my brother’s keeper?"

Am I my brother’s keeper…come on…You mean to tell me that Cain thinks the Lord doesn’t know what he has done?

We’re so good at justifying our actions. We excuse them away, blame others, avoid responsibility.

A husband slams his wife up against the kitchen cabinets…it’s mainly her fault because she doesn’t give him enough attention. So he says. Odd, I’ve never seen a marriage grow stronger when anger and jealousy are involved.

Your child receives a bad grade….it’s the teacher that isn’t teaching. We always have a reason.

We seldom want to face the truth and the truth is that Cain felt guilty about his meager offering, he grew jealous and he killed his brother.

And the truth for us is we may need to work harder, to give more effort. Or the truth might be that we are not as good in that area, and we are giving the best we can. The truth is the husband needs to learn to control his anger and treat his wife like Christ treats the church.

Story has been told of a lion who was very proud and decided to take a walk one day to demonstrate his mastery over all the other creatures.

He strutted his way through the forest until he came across a bear, ‘WHO IS THE KING OF THE JUNGLE BEAR? ‘Why of course you are mighty lion’.

He went on until he found the tiger, ‘WHO IS THE KING OF THE JUNGLE TIGER?’ ‘Why you are great lion’.

Next the lion found the elephant, ‘WHO IS THE KING OF THE JUNGLE FAT ELEPHANT?’

The elephant immediately grabbed the lion with his trunk and spun him around a few times and slammed him to the ground.

He then stepped on him a few times and picked him up and dunked him in the water and then threw him up against a tree.

The lion staggered to his feet and said, ‘LOOK, JUST BECAUSE YOU DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER IS NO REASON TO GET SO UPSET!’

Anger keeps us from seeing the truth too.

IV. Anger always brings a curse.

Cain was cursed. The Lord cast Him away. Anger will always distance you from your loved ones.

Genesis 4:10-12, 16

The Lord said, "What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. [11] Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. [12] When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth." So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Cain’s curse was that his work would bring out the consequences of his sin. Isn’t it interesting that his problem was giving a half-hearted effort, and the curse was to make his job tougher? If he had given his best from the start he wouldn’t be forced to work so hard now.

Cain’s anger gave the devil a foothold and Cain lost.

And your anger will cause you to loose too.

You will end up with hurt feelings because you feel so guilty about your outbursts of anger and your bitter heart will eventually be broken.

Your anger will make you experience rejection. Others, especially your spouse and children will not want to be around you because you are so angry all the time. Your children will see you as childish and avoid you because they’ll never know when you’re going to lash out at them. Co-workers won’t want to have anything to do with you because they fear they will be the next target of your rage. Your spouse will, and probably already has, emotionally distanced themselves from you because they’re tired of being treated with such disrespect, all because you can’t have your way and so you react in anger or you don’t have their attention and so you pout in jealousy.

You will experience loneliness. You will end up empty.

Cain was cast to a no-man’s land, forced to leave his father and mother. And you might think you’ve escaped the curse… but you haven’t. One day your children will leave home and you won’t hear from them very much. One day you’ll wish you could talk to your daughter more but she doesn’t seem to call very much. Some day you’ll be sitting all alone and wonder why you don’t have any friends and why your spouse doesn’t talk to you and if you could be truthful you would…but you can’t… because your anger has blinded you. And you’ll just blame everyone else and your anger will increase only making your heart harder.

That’s what anger does. Anger itself is the curse and if you don’t get rid of it, it will take root in your heart. And even now some of you are listening who struggle with anger and jealousy issues but it’s not registering because the anger that resides in you has hardened your heart to the truth.

When anger comes home to roost in you, ask yourself a few questions in order to overcome the urge to lash out:

How to Overcome Anger:

1. Is my anger or jealousy selfishly motivated? Is it about me? Is it because I’m just being childish?

2. Will my anger or jealousy bring peace to my life or cause more turmoil?

3. If I had given a better effort, would I be experiencing these feelings now?

4. If my anger is righteous, what will I do to resolve the issue in a mature and godly manner?

Maybe if you practice what the Bible says;

Ephesians 4:26 & 27

"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, [27] and do not give the devil a foothold.

…you won’t be so quick the next time you have an urge to kill.