Human misery stands a good chance of lasting as long as the sun shines until people decide that their want no longer matters enough to control life.
Hear these words from the Book of Genesis:
Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering – fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Now then… Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field…” (Genesis 4:1-5, New International Version)
We all know what happened next in that field – the first murder in the Bible.
Regardless of the rightness or wrongness of God favoring Abel’s offering, whether or not God acted with fairness, a lifelong lesson jumps off this page: God teaches Cain “… sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
Cain’s sin of wanting God’s favor crouched at his door, desiring and wanting to have Cain as a prize; and, God teaches Cain to rule over that want and determine for himself that he must rule over it. God teaches Cain to take charge, show self-control, and battle until conquering his want.
You see, want/sin always crouches outside the door of where we live to pounce upon us. Want or sin ever letting go of its desire for us “just ain’t never gonna happen.” Every morning when I wake up I know I can count on my want as my personal chauffeur for the day, driving my decisions wherever my chauffeur wants to take me.
Not even a question, is it?
The single most unique and absolutely radical event that may occur during my day erupts when I choose to disallow my want to successfully control me. That decision, my friend, stands as the only reason why want/sin flubs up its dominance over me. Want wants what it wants when it wants it always. Try telling me that want only occasionally wants what it wants when it wants it. Tell me that, every now and then for some unknown reason, want desires nothing at all (at least for a little while).
Nope… Not going to happen. Convincing me that, on occasion, want/sin desires to relinquish its control over my decision-making sounds as about as convincing as the sun rising in the west over the Pacific Ocean tomorrow morning.
Want/sin cannot change its nature, but, we can change our nature, including any control that want/sin wishes over us. God gave us a power and a freedom to veto any control certain forces want over us. A quick read of the Bible provides us with all the information we need to discover want’s desire to control us and how even a little self-control can save the day. While an almost endless number of narratives like these float between the pages of biblical literature, simply review Genesis 4’s Cain and Abel story one more time. Genesis 4 teaches that self-control can save your brother’s life and spare others from enormous misery.
So… Human misery stands a good chance of lasting as long as the sun shines until people decide that their want no longer matters enough to control life. Are you interested in giving it a try today? Let me tell you that the mother and father of humanity – Adam and Eve – as well as your mother, father, family, and friends might all appreciate your efforts.
Tom Towns is pastor of First United Methodist Church in Cortez.