Being Honest With God: You Are Your Brother’s Keeper

Cain and Able Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ – Genesis 4:9a

Speaking to each other is an amazing demonstration of human communication. It becomes even more amazing when God decides to interject in the process. Millions of people have a hard enough time holding a conversation with other humans. However, neither God nor Cain had a problem communicating to each other. Incredible! When I say neither had a problem, I do not mean neither brought a problem to the table. Cain certainly had a problem or two but engaging God was not one of them. Hopefully, we all understand that God did not NEED to engage in this conversation but He chose to for the larger purposes of His will and communicating a huge lesson over eons of time. God engaged Cain not because He did not know where Abel was but because He demands honesty even in our sin and disobedience. If you and I cannot be honest with God who can we be honest with? Furthermore, I find it very interesting that God did not say, “Where is Abel?” Instead, He says “your brother Abel.” As if to remind Cain of their relationship to one another. God knew Cain had killed his brother Abel before He asked Cain where he was located.

He said, ‘I don’t know, am I my brother’s keeper?’ – Genesis 4:9b

A guy has to have some kind of audacious personality to respond directly to God with a lie. From that time, to the present Cain’s response has been known as the Lie of Cain. The fact remains we are our brother’s keeper and not just in the bloodline sense of the application. So, Cain first says, “I don’t know.” Funny thing about that is men say this a lot more than women. I see it on a daily basis in the counseling room with Soldiers. You ask an open or a closed ended question and all you get is “I don’t know.” Such responses are called Anxious Avoidant, today. Cain was anxious about God’s question and avoidant of God’s inquiry. Secondly, he tries to deflect the conversation back on God: “am I my brother’s keeper?” What you learn in counseling is to not let the “I don’t know” persist. You interpret it for the counselee and the counselee will make any clarifications answering the question they avoided. In this passage of scripture, God is God the counselor and not only interprets Cain’s “I don’t know” but passes judgment immediately.

And the Lord said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.’ – Genesis 4:10-12

Even in God’s judgment of Cain, He continues to ask questions; “What have you done?” Here we learn the important lesson that God is all knowing. If for some reason we missed it in the first three chapters of Genesis, we now have no excuse. God knows everything and is to be respected for being more than a Santa Claus in the sky! The imagery God uses in His condemnation of Cain is also fascinating. Whatever the cooperative relationship was between mankind and the ground, ceased when Cain murdered his brother. One interpretation is that Cain would no longer work as a farmer and would have to take up a whole new way of life. In fact, Cain interpreted it just that way when in verse 13 and he says to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” Again, audaciously engaging God even in judgment. Furthermore, Cain felt as though people would kill him when they found him in his wonderings. (Verse 14d) God responds:

Then the Lord said to him, ‘Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. – Genesis 4:15-16

hope1 There are more challenges than clarifications that come with these two verses. Unfortunately, those who would love to use race as a wedge for the purpose of argument have high jacked verse 16. First, God declared in earlier verses that Cain would be a “fugitive and a wanderer” and then in verse 16 He allows Cain to settle in the land of Nod. Perhaps not a fugitive and wanderer but certainly a marked man that could no longer be a farmer. Second, what is up with this whole “mark” thing? Just so we are clear, NO ONE KNOWS! Guess what happens when people don’t know? We speculate and speculation brings hasty generalizations and disinformation. Literally, all we have is what is given in the verse: “And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.” There is nothing there to imply God did anything more or less than what the verse says. Also, the way it reads, God did this for Cain’s protection. Of all the things we could apply to these verses, that last part should be the most baffling. Why mark him so no one would kill? Did he not deserve death? What can be known is that Cain was condemned, forced to change occupations (we learn later he became a builder of cities), a marked man, and a man protected by God. What we miss in the English reading of these verses is that all of these things applied to his descendants not just him.

Finally, we see that Cain was separated from the presence of God. No more to converse with his creator. I know of nothing that could be more damning.

The above discourse applies to us today as much as it did all those thousands of years ago. It is sin that separates from the continuing of conversation with God. And like Cain, God insists that we be honest with Him no matter what we do, think or say. No one knows you like God knows you. What an honor that God the creator WANTS and DESIRES to speak to each and every one of us. What is preventing you from holding a conversation with the only being that knows you better than you know yourself? Be honest because you are your brother’s keeper!

Mijikai Mason
Disclaimer: The thoughts and views published on the Veterans to Christ blog are those of Mijikai Mason and in no way are meant to represent the United States Army or the Armed Forces.

Bio: Mijikai Mason is an Ordained Southern Baptist minister and Chaplain in the United States Army. He has been in the Army for 26 years both as an enlisted Soldier and now as an Officer. He has been stationed at various bases in the United States and in United States Army Garrison Schweinfurt, Germany. He holds an undergraduate degree in Religion from the University of Mobile, a Master of Divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in Theology and Evangelism and a Master of Arts degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Webster University. Chaplain (MAJ) Mijikai Mason was selected by the Army in 2013, to become a Family Life Chaplain and began his service in this field starting 15 May 2015. He is the Deputy ESC Chaplain and Family Life Chaplain for the 593 Expeditionary Support Command at Joint Base Lewis McCord. He has deployed four times: Desert Storm (1991), Iraq twice (2005-2006; 2007-2008), and Afghanistan (2012-2013). He has a total of 42 months deployed in combat and logistics operations. Mijikai and his wife, Ashley, have been married for 17 years this May and live near Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington with their four daughters.