And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
On the outside looking in, most people saw this as a healthy sibling rivalry. The girls were not too far apart in age, so they were on the same level in many respects. Their competition might have seemed fierce, but a careful observer would have noted that it was almost always one-sided. Instead of the younger sister chasing the older, it was the older sister who consistently desired to outdo the younger. One area in which the younger sister excelled was in gaining the praise of their parents. The older sister figured that they simply loved the other more and that they would never see her in the same light. However, they were simply responding to the younger one giving them her unconditional best. What should have driven the older sister to be better simply drove her to hate because of jealousy.
Cain wanted what Abel had, just as the older sister wanted what the younger sister had. The problem is that neither wanted to put in the work to get there. Cain had his opportunities to please the Lord by offering up a worthy sacrifice, but he displeased the Lord and experienced the result of the Lord’s displeasure. Abel received the respect that he wanted from the Lord, but that was because Abel did rightly in the eyes of the Lord. Cain’s jealousy could have moved him to change his behavior, to do what was pleasing to the Lord so that he could experience the Lord’s pleasure. Instead, it moved him to hatred and murder. This certainly would not bring the Lord pleasure, so his motivation was not to receive the respect he was missing. His only motivation was to punish the one whose reward provoked him to jealousy.
The story of Cain and Abel is a foreshadowing of what the Lord himself would do to provoke his nation Israel to jealousy in an attempt to bring them back to him. Salvation came to the Gentiles in order to show the Jews the mighty mercy and love of God. [Rom. 11:11-12] The goal was not to cause God’s chosen people to hate those He elected to graft into the vine. The goal was to show them what they could have in hopes that they would do what is necessary to obtain it. There is nothing wrong with seeing the blessings God brings to others’ lives and asking him to work in our lives the same way, but we cannot let jealousy lead us to hatred and sin against those who have what we desire. Father, motivate us to seek your best in all things but not to curse or hate those who have made it already to the places we so desperately want to reach.