There is a great contrast in the early chapters of Genesis that is easy to overlook. It is a subtle but powerful revelation about sin and humanity that has far-reaching implications.
Did you notice in Genesis 3 how easily Eve was talked into sin by the serpent and then in Genesis 4 how her son Cain could not be talked out of sin by God Himself? That’s more than interesting. It’s formative. Genesis is not simply the story of how things began; it is also intended to explain why we are where we are today. A very simple and basic truth about people and sin is revealed in the story of Eve and her son Cain. And we are still proving that it is true millennia later.
It is easy to talk a person into sin. It is nearly impossible to talk a person out of it. All Eve had to hear in order to turn against her Creator who had placed her in paradise was that she deserved better. Yet not even the voice of God Himself could deter Cain who was brooding on what he supposed was an entitlement that had been withheld (a divine affirmation regarding his offering).
Eve’s naiveté is a giant red flag waving to us from the past. Beware, when you are told you shouldn’t be as happy as you are. It always comes with invisible strings attached. In Eve’s case, as with so many others, it was not a craving or a desire within her that sent her on a quest to find what her heart was yearning for. Rather, an outside agent had to tell her that she should be offended for not having what she didn’t really want in the first place.
So much hurt and pain result when we heed those around us who say we “really haven’t lived” until we try something we never really wanted to try in the first place. This isn’t to suggest that our souls are as white as the driven snow and but for exterior temptations, we would all go straight to heaven when we die. No, Jeremiah was absolutely right to say, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick…” (Jeremiah 17:9). But the cause of so much future problem is awakened and triggered into action, oh so quickly, by the whispers from without that our lives would be so much better if we only started longing for what we currently have little interest in. We naively make room in our minds for what it would be like and then we’re hooked.
We begin to turn it over in our minds. What would it look like? What would it feel like? How would our lives be improved if we continued down this path? Why shouldn’t we? Don’t we deserve it? And then we act. The subsequent embarrassment and shame demand quick rationalization and justification. Misery loves company so, “she also gave some to her husband… (Genesis 3:6).
Cain, on the other hand, wasn’t naïve. He was furious. Unlike his parents, he had never set foot in Eden. Obviously, he lived prior to the Noahic flood, so Eden was still around (though guarded). Nothing had to be whispered or suggested to him about what He didn’t have. It was right there in front of him. And it bothered him. It also apparently bothered him that it didn’t seem to bother his brother.
Some people look around and can’t see anything beautiful in their own lives for which to be grateful. All they see is what they don’t have and they stew about it. So when the brothers offered their sacrifices to God, Cain’s was tainted with bitterness. The rejection of his offering had nothing to do with its substance (the fruit of the ground versus the firstborn of the flock). Later in Leviticus vegetable offerings became a part of the Jewish law. No, it’s not because there was no blood involved but because there was plenty of animosity heaped on the altar along with the vegetables. Not only was Cain barred from Eden because of his parents, but he was also denied God’s approval which he apparently thought he was owed. When confronted by the Almighty and warned that “sin is crouching at the door” (Genesis 4:7) the words went in one ear and out the other.
Hell may not have the fury of a woman scorned but woe to him who stands between a man separated from what he believes he is entitled to. God Himself couldn’t talk Cain down from the cliff he had already determined he would jump from. His descendants are still among us. They demand what they think they’re entitled to and if they don’t get it when they believe they deserve it, they bring misery and suffering to everyone around them.
We are gripped in the iron fist of narcissism which is being fed by an entitlement mentality. Whether it is suggested to us from without or springs from within we are constantly pressed to think about what is either being withheld from us or that which we don’t have access to. We should remember the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes: “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Yet here we are. Falling for the same old sleight-of-hand tricks from the Devil that Eve and her son Cain fell for. Something is being withheld from you. It’s not fair! Do it. Take it. It ought to be yours anyway.
Once you’ve swallowed the bait of entitlements, you’re hooked in the innermost depths of your being. There will never be an end to what you think you are owed (from others, society, and even God). What a path of misery and devastation you will leave behind. Nothing but sorrow, regret, tears, and blood.
Only Christ Jesus can take away the tension, the consternation, the jealousy, and the drive to move inexorably toward what we have either been convinced of or convinced ourselves belongs to us. It is human nature to want more than we have. Remember, Original Sin was the consequence, not the cause of Eve’s decision making. One of the most profound and prolific statements in the Bible about this subject is found in Philippians 2:3,
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
That would have kept Eve from leading her husband into rebellion against God. It would have kept Cain from murdering his brother. It would prevent every single sexual sin. It would prevent every sin prompted by pride.
Jesus turns everything upside down and inside out. So much so that when John the Baptist was at the pinnacle of his popularity and someone pointed out that people were starting to drift away from him and towards Jesus he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Paul, who had once been quite the hater of Christ and all who followed Him, said, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11).
In Christ, it is never about what you don’t have that you think you should. It’s about what you do have because of Him. Sin focuses and centers on what is absent. Faith reveals Who is present. And He is enough. So the next time some voice tries convincing you that you should be offended about what you don’t have, or the voice within rises up in outrage that you’ve been slighted and are owed more respect, or a flirtatious remark aimed at you tickles your fancy and imagination…just remember the words of the old song:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
(Helen H. Lemmel)