By Billy W. Moore
Almost from the beginning of family life there have been family troubles. Trouble is defined as: “To agitate; disturb. To agitate mentally or spiritually; worry. To afflict physically; ail. To put to inconvenience.” (Webster)
The Occasion for the First Family Trouble. Unto Adam and Eve were born two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain grew up to become a tiller of the ground, while Abel became a keeper of the sheep. Each of them “brought … an offering to the Lord.” (Gen. 4:3,4) They would not have known to bring an offering if they had not been taught to do so. Perhaps Adam and Eve had made many offerings, thus the boys would have observed such as they grew up. Your children will never know how to give unto God an offering of praise, of talent, or of money if they are not taught. In our materialistic society the first thing most people think about when they make more money is getting more “stuff and things” for self. (Cf. Luke 12:16-19)
Cain and Abel brought an offering because God commanded it. While the command is not recorded in the Genesis account, we know such was made. “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” (Heb. 11:4) Since “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10: 17), it is necessarily inferred that God told Abel what to offer. Knowing that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), we also necessarily infer that God told Cain what to offer.
God had no respect to Cain and to his offering because he did not offer what God commanded.
Being a tiller of the ground, Cain brought an offering of the ground. Thus, he substituted what he thought would be alright for that which God commanded. Cain did not do well (Genesis 4:7). There are still some who contend that it does not matter what you do in religion, just so you are honest and sincere. There is nothing in the text which infers that Cain was not honest and sincere in his offering. He just did not offer what God commanded. He did make an offering, which is more than some people do. In fact some church members do not make much of an offering. They do not give bountifully, but sparingly. After all we have to look out for ourselves, they say (Read 2 Cor. 9:6-7). Remember, “God is not mocked.” (Gal. 6:7). Cain did worship God, which is better than some do. Some members of the church choose to tend to their business, gather their harvest, or pursue pleasure rather than worship God. Cain was not all bad, but out stripped many of today’s citizens.
Jude wrote of some who “have gone in the way of Cain.” (Jude 11) The way of Cain is the way of the transgressor. (Cf. 2 John 9-11) It is the way of vain worship. (Cf. Matt. 15:9) It is the way of rebelling against God. He evidently did not like what God commanded, or found it inconvenient to obey, so he rebelled against God and His way, and substituted his own way. Thus, the way of Cain is the way of substitution. God says, “Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain.” The way of Cain is the way of woe.
The Trouble Itself. Cain’s reaction upon learning that God did not respect his offering, i.e. that his worship was not acceptable: “Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.” (Gen. 4:5) His anger was against his brother, though Abel had done nothing wrong. How often when people learn that their service to God is not in keeping with God’s way, they will become angry with those who are following the right way, rather than correcting their own lives. Thus, they make the matter worse.
Cain’s countenance fell. The word countenance comes from a Latin word “continere,” meaning to hold together, repress, contain. The idea being that the expression of his face showed disapproval and anger. God said, “If thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.” Cain did not control his anger, but let it get the upper hand. “And it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.” (Gen. 4:8)
Why would he kill his brother? “Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” G John 3:12) This is envy! Envy “is the feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others.” (W. E. Vine) God has charged Christians, “Be ye angry and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” (Eph. 4:26)
Cain’s works were evil because they were not what God commanded; Abel’s were righteous because they were what God commanded. Yes, it does make a difference what we do in serving God. What about the works of some men today who are acclaiming service to God? Consider: burning incense, making of images, instrumental music in worship, church sponsored recreation, etc. These are done by honest sincere people who are claiming to be serving God.
The First Family Trouble Developed Over Religion. Cain should have repented when he learned that his offering was not acceptable. How difficult it is to work repentance. Some just will not admit, “I am wrong, I have sinned.” Cain should have rejoiced that his brother was acceptable unto God. But some men can never rejoice in the goodness of others.
Many other families have had trouble over religion. I suspect it shall always be so in this world. The Lord once said, “A man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” (Matt. 10:36) Some in a family will believe and obey the truth, while others will not. Sometimes those who do not obey the truth will come to hate those who do.
The Consequences of the First Family Trouble. First, an innocent man died. This is frequently the case, the innocent are made to suffer in family trouble. Children suffer when their father and mother have trouble. A mother is hurt when her child is in trouble. Second, Cain was “cursed from the earth” (Gen. 4: 1112). The earth would not yield her strength for him. Third, Cain was to become a fugitive and a vagabond. He begged for mercy. The Lord placed a mark upon him, and decreed that whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken sevenfold. (Gen. 4:13-15) Fourth, Adam and Eve suffered greatly as a result of this family trouble.
How To Avoid Family Trouble. While I make no claim to being an expert in family troubles, and certainly do not seek to involve myself in the trouble of other families, yet through years of Bible study, twenty years of gospel preaching, and observing trouble in many families, I can offer some suggestions as to how to avoid family trouble. These suggestions are merely Bible principles. For what they are worth:
1. Do not hold anger and jealousy in your heart. “An angry man stireth up strife.” (Prov. 29:22) “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly.” (Prov. 14:17)
2. Husbands love your wives as your own bodies. (Eph. 5:28-29) There will be no lack of trust, no jealousy, where this is obeyed. This will prevent criticism of your wife before others, which often leads to family trouble.
3. Wives see that ye reverence your husbands (Eph. 5:31) and submit unto your own husbands. (Eph. 5:23) A contentious woman is sure to cause family trouble. (Prov. 21:9, 19)
4. Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath. (Eph. 6:4) “The forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife.” (Prov. 30:33)
5. Children obey your parents. (Eph. 6:1) Disobedient children are a cause of much family trouble. The rod and reproof give wisdom; but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. (Prov. 29:15) A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to her that bare him. (Prov. 17:25)
6. Practice the golden rule. Do unto others as ye would have them do unto you. “A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.” (Prov. 15: 1) Wouldn’t you rather have others speak to you with a soft answer instead of grievous words? Sharp words spoken in haste cause much family trouble. Be kind, courteous, and thankful, as you would have others be unto you.
7. Do, not try to run the lives of others. Trying to manage your children’s home could cause serious family trouble. Trying to tell someone how to raise their children also causes trouble. (Usually those who know the most about how to raise children have had no first hand experience.)
8. Try to implant in the mind of each member of the family the importance of doing the will of God. If everyone in your family believes in God and wants to please him, there is less chance of serious family trouble ever developing.
If family trouble does arise, do not blame the Lord for it. The Lord has a balm for every wound, a blessing for all who seek it. If you have been the cause of family trouble, repent of your sins and make things right with your family and right with God. There is enough sin and sorrow in this life without having to live with it in your own family. God help us to be close as families, and to live close to Him.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 29, pp. 8-10
May 25, 1972