We find ourselves often bobbing in a sea of religious confusion. Many groups claim to be the best religion and point to their ingredients as reasons for such claims. Several years ago, our boys played basketball in a league hosted by a huge community church in the Denver area. Their church’s campus includes a K-12 school, two restaurants, a gymnasium half the size of our church building, a coffee shop, and a hundred social program. Other groups would make their claim as “better” or “best” based on their numeric size, the number of programs they have, or how socially active they are.
Our religious attitude ought to be one of humility, which does not boast of our achievements or compare ourselves with others (cf. 2 Cor. 10:12). Genesis 4 is not just about two kinds of worship, but also about two ways of living life. Cain is mentioned by three Bible writers after Moses introduces him in Genesis. The writer of Hebrews calls Abel’s offering more excellent than his (Heb. 11:4). John calls Cain’s works evil and his allegiance “of the wicked one” (1 Jo. 3:12). Jude implies that the way of Cain is the wrong way to go (11). Let’s make a few brief observations from Genesis four and see if we can find the elements which make for a better way of living today.
BETTER LIVING IS NOT DETERMINED BY AGE (1-2). By birth order, Cain came first. He was the first person to be born in the natural order of childbirth. He was the very first newborn to be held in his mama’s arms. She didn’t realize that her cooing, sweet infant was a future murdering, and she was proud of him. She called him “a man child with the help of the Lord.” This depicts such a bright, optimistic future, and by contrast Scripture says, “Again, she gave birth to his brother, Abel” (2). Abel began in his brother’s shadow, first known to us as “his (Cain’s) brother.”
BETTER LIVING IS NOT DETERMINED BY OCCUPATION (2). When we look at these brothers, what they did for a living was not the determiner of the quality of their lives. While what they did had an indirect bearing on the events of this account, the fact of their occupation was spiritually neutral—Cain farmed and Abel tended sheep. One can reap blessings from tilling the ground (Heb. 6:7), but they may have to fight thorns, thistles, and weeds doing it (Gen. 3:18-19). Tending sheep may be done by slaves (Luke 17:17), kings (1 Sam. 17:34), or apostles (John 21:17). God’s pleasure or displeasure was not connected to either’s occupation.
BETTER LIVING IS DETERMINED BY WORSHIP (3-4). Moses says both brought an offering to the Lord. He also says God responded to bother offerings, accepting one and rejecting the other. That very notion is foreign to many people in our society today, even those in religion. Many make worship nothing more than taste, preference, and personal inclination. But, Moses shows us (1) Not all worship is equal: God had regard for Abel’s, but not Cain’s. The words “had respect to” signify in Hebrew to look at something with a very serious glance. God tells us how He wants worship done, in attitude and action; (2) The worshipper and the worship rise and fall together: God had regard for Abel AND his offering and did not for Cain AND his offering. That’s a sober reminder for me that my personal relationship with God is hindered or helped based on the way I worship God. Can I offer God vain and ignorant worship, and have God reject it but accept me? We are not earning God’s favor by getting worship right. At the same time, are we tempting God and hoping we stay in His favor while disobeying His commands for worship? People have tried to make this an “either-or” proposition, that Cain and Abel’s offering was either about getting the worship right or was about the nature of the person offering the worship. In other words, is it sincerity or obedience, our both sincerity and obedience? To thoughtfully ask the question is to answer it!
BETTER LIVING IS DETERMINED BY ATTITUDE (5-7). Cain reacts to having himself and his worship rejected by God by burning with anger and his face taking on an ugly look. He sounds like a small child in the throes of a tantrum or a teenager huffing and sulking in anger. God warns Cain of the recipe for disaster he was making through his attitude. He told Cain that his tempestuous attitude was an invitation for sin to pounce on him, but He told him he could master it! You can have a positive attitude without prosperity, education, or earthly success, but you cannot have a positive attitude without mastering self.
BETTER LIVING IS DETERMINED BY ACTION (8-16). Improper worship and attitude preceded and precipitated improper action. The first time “sin” is used (Gen. 4:7), God was looking ahead with perfect foresight to what Cain would do to his brother. He does the unthinkable, killing his own brother (cf. 1 Jo. 3:11-15). His deeds and ways were a recipe for disaster: He is rebuked by God, punished by God, and separated from God. Sin promises a good time and fulfillment, but it’s not true.
It’s been said that the lineage of Cain gave us murder, cities, polygamy, musicians, metal workers and poetry, but not one who walked with God! Thanks to his legacy, a descendant repeats his violent ways (Gen. 4:23). Abel seems to leave no physical lineage, but he still speaks after death. His was a life of faith, generosity, good works, righteousness, and obedience. We get to choose the kind of life we want to pursue. If we choose well, we will be satisfied, others will be blessed, and God will be pleased.
It’s a clash of political correctness agendas, though the latter one is extremely legitimate. On one side, we have the recent, insane push for recognizing transgenderism—even that which is simply claimed and asserted at the apparent whim of the claimant. On the other side is an important, needed aspect of feminism—protecting women from the sexual aggression of men. Both are fiercely championed by those of a liberal mindset, and the two came face to face in the “gender neutral” bathrooms of Whitney Hall at the University of Toronto. Ironically, two incidents of voyeurism, where male students were “caught holding their cellphones over female students’ shower stalls and filming them as they showered” (dailywire.com), occurred in September, 2015, just as the push was heating up for men and women to choose the public bathroom of the gender they felt themselves to be. Our sitting president even defended a federal transgender directive for public school bathrooms, allowing “transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity, saying that society must protect the dignity and safety of vulnerable children” (nytimes.com, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, 5/16/16). The outlandishness of such baseless thinking had already been demonstrated well before this “guidance” issued by the Education and Justice Departments was made public this Spring.
There is a biblical and biological answer to what has amazingly become an enigma and conundrum for everyone from politicians to corporations. Jesus said, “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female” (Mark 10:6). There are external ways to both test and validate these, and are as accessible as a basic medical examination. I trust a Creator whose ability is demonstrated everywhere from the order and continuous operation of the universe to the magnificence of the earth to the intricacies of the body’s circulatory and respiratory systems to somatic cells to our DNA.
In the world’s rabid desire to reject His authority, there’s no wonder that people concoct such far-fetched, senseless ideas as we are seeing put forward at the present time. Paul traces the genesis of such ludicrous ideas, saying, “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper…” (Rom. 1:28). Until that mindset changes, we are likely to see more issues like the push to accept transgenderism and welcome it into our public private places (like bathrooms in stores and dorms) even if they produce the kind of actions reported in Whitney Hall. May more people simply and humbly follow the perfect guidance of God’s Word.
Articles across the scientific community of late have been postulating a similar idea. Astrophysicist Brian Koberlein suggests that there was no single point in space and time when matter was infinitely dense, saying, “The catch is that by eliminating the singularity, the model predicts that the universe had no beginning. It existed forever as a kind of quantum potential before ‘collapsing’ into the hot dense state we call the Big Bang. Unfortunately many articles confuse ‘no singularity’ with ‘no big bang’” (briankoberlein.com). One of the most recent darlings of this explanations are Ahmed Farag Alia and Saurya Das, whose paper “Cosmology from quantum potential” is being cited by quantum physicists and astrophysicists. As this gets traction, there should be a trickle down effect until the broader scientific community embraces this idea.
Let’s hope so!
It could be a pivotal moment in the creation versus evolution debate. Why? When you wade through the technical, obtuse jargon, this theory concludes that the universe is eternal. We all know that something has always had to exist. Our options are “intelligent, moral, animate mind” or “mindless, amoral, inanimate matter.” The faith factor has just multiplied by a centillion for those wanting a God-less explanation. The same argument they have tried to level against those believing in intelligent design and creation applies to them. How did that eternal matter get here?
Here’s the difference between the two arguments. Matter not only had to “create” itself, it also had to develop (evolve?) intelligence, morality, purpose, etc. The Bible reveals an intelligent designer (Creator) with inherent morality, purpose, and sufficient power and energy to make it all. “It’s too simplistic,” they say. “How quaint!” But to a person who is truly trying to approach these two explanations with open-minded fairness, which of these two ideas will seem more plausible? It won’t even be a fair contest!
Let’s hope this latest attempt to explain our origin finds favor among those who “say there is no God” (Ps. 14:1) and who “suppress the truth” (Rom. 1:18ff). Maybe it will help more honest searchers “find” God (Acts 17:27). I think it will!
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency was formed in 1958 for technological advancements and has been responsible for so many of the gadgets and conveniences we enjoy today. They use a variety of means to “both advance knowledge through basic research and create innovative technologies that address current practical problems through applied research” (darpa.mil). SRI International, one of the agencies DARPA partners with, “has taken inspiration from the giant mound of insects, to create their own swarms of tiny worker robots that can put together mechanical assemblies and electronic circuits” (Michael Trei, dvice.com). The military has given thought to using these robots to rebuild and repair, even in the midst of battle. Who can foresee where this technology may show up in our daily lives?
People can be incredibly brilliant and innovative. There is no limit to our imagination and invention. Yet, this (and many other examples) points up to God in at least two ways. First, our intelligence points to an intelligent designer. Moses informs us that we are made in the very image of our Creator (Gen. 1:26-27). Second, our brightest developments and designs are drawn from what God’s created world. Solomon once admonished, “Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, Which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, Prepares her food in the summer And gathers her provision in the harvest” (Prov. 6:6-8). They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. How ironic that in a world growing more unbelieving, mankind keeps paying tribute to the wisdom and power of the One who made it all.