“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; honor one another above yourselves.”
~ Romans 12:10
“I love you, my brother, whoever you are – whether you worship in a church, kneel in your temple, or pray in your mosque.”
~ Kahlil Gibran
ACCORDING TO THE BIBLICAL ACCOUNT OF CREATION, all people descended from common parents – Adam and Eve – to whom Cain and Abel were respectively born first.
Perhaps, one of the most thought–provoking conversations between God and man – in the Scripture – is when Cain counter questioned his Creator, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
To understand better, and learn few but essential lessons, let us read the whole story.
Genesis 4:1–9 (KJV,Public Domain).
1And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord. 2 And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. 4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: 5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. 6 And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. 8 And 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 slew him. 9 And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?
The first lesson to reflect upon : “Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.” (Genesis 4:3). Other Scriptural versions specified, “Cain brought ‘some’ of the fruits…” In other words, Cain offered to God “not the best” fruits of his harvest.
Sadly, on Cain and his offering God had no respect or did not look with favor; because, in God’s standard, what he did was not right. Hence, he was not accepted. (Genesis 4:5,7)
On the other hand, God had respect or looked with favor on Abel and his offerings; for he distinctively brought “fat portions” from the “firstborn” of his flock. (Genesis 4:4). In the same way, God will reciprocate us with best and surprising returns – if we offer to Him our best.
The Scripture further supplemented,“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)
“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
~ Abraham Lincoln
Another lesson to reflect upon in the foregoing story is that anger, envy, insecurity and the like are emotional baggage; that will have repercussions to the person holding the same.
The aforesaid Scriptural verse evidently provides, “Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.” (Genesis 4:8)
Moreover, an all-knowing God can foretell that Cain would kill his brother Abel; yet, beforehand, God entrusted to him Abel – as his brother’s keeper?
The aforesaid Scriptural verse finally provides, “And the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel thy brother?” And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper? (Genesis 4:9)
It seems to imply that despite of our inadequacies – somehow – we are entrusted by God to be brother’s keeper too; in response to our social responsibility.
In this Internet era, however, we are challenged for global tasks; whoever and wherever our brothers and sisters would be; since in essence we belong to one and the same Creator.
An unknown thought leader complemented, “Globalization should make us brothers, rather than strangers.”
Moment Of Enlightenment
“Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment.”
~ Lao Tzu
A Rabbi gathered together his students and asked them:
“How do we know the exact moment when night ends and day begins?”
“When it’s light enough to tell a sheep from a dog,” said one boy.
Another student said: “No, when it’s light enough to tell an olive tree from a fig tree.”
“No, that’s not a good definition either.”
“Well, what’s the right answer?”asked the boys.
And the Rabbi said: “When a stranger approaches, and we think he is our brother, and all conflicts disappear, that is the exact moment when night ends and day begins.”
The Parable Of The Talents
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” ~ Luke12:48
To utilize our God-given talents, in response to social responsibility, let us try to review a digested, relevant and self-explanatory Scriptural story, The Parable of the Talents.
According to the Scripture, in Matthew 25:14 ~ 29, a rich master entrusted to his servants – five talents, two talents and one talent, according to their abilities.
As we all knew, the one who received five talents put his money to work and gained five more. Also, the one with two talents gained two more. But the one who had received one talent dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
In the end of the story, the Master – in a seemingly paradoxical caveat – strongly declared, ‘‘For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” (Matthew 25:29)
An Invitation To Change The World
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone into the waters to create many ripples.” ~ Mother Teresa
Anyone, then, who is willing to be an active participant – rather than a mere spectator – seemed invited by God to change the world for the better; as He bestowed each one with an appropriate time, talent and/or treasure.
The Scripture provides, “God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings.” (1 Peter 4:10).
Further, “There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives ability to all for their particular service.” – (1 Corinthians 12:6)
In performing our tasks, however, we must be cautious not to be infected of the so–called holier-than-thou attitude, self-righteous mentality or messianic complex.
Let us learn from – the renowned immortal – Ralph Waldo Emerson who humbly declared, “Every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.”
Sustained further by – the deeply spiritual – Thomas Kempis with a seemingly stern complement, “Remember that you have not made any progress in life, unless you consider yourself inferior to all.” (The Imitation of Christ – Book 2, Chapter 2)
Be A Watchman!
“For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.”
~ Isaiah 21:6 (KJV)
In the Old Testament, God seemed more strict or demanding; specially with those whom He entrusted with greater social responsibility.
For instance, He had a strong demand to – one of His prophets – Ezekiel, “You must warn them so they may live. If you don’t speak out to warn the wicked to stop their evil ways, they will die in their sin. But I will hold you responsible for their death. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.” – (Ezekiel 3:18-19)
The same demand urged one to be a watchman who humanely condemns the sin but not the sinner; “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Thomas Kempis further reminds, “We are all frail; consider none more frail than yourself.” (The Imitation Of Christ, Book One, Chapter 2, last line).
In modern times, however, everyone seems self-sufficient. In fact, some may have a primary concern of a continuing soul-searching and spiritual deepening by seeking God; rather than seeking a brother, and be his keeper?
An unknown devout leader aptly shared an insight, “I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother and I found all three.”
“The main question is not, how can we hide our wounds…but how can we put our woundedness in service to others.” ~ Henri Nouwen
As God’s masterpiece-in-progress, we may also consider ourselves as wounded healers; humbly recognizing our woundedness, yet willing to reach out to our wounded brothers too.
Or, better yet, despite of our woundedness, God – through us – would like to extend His healing touch to all mankind; in their respective woundedness.
If so, we no longer ignore the so-called “sin of omission;” by not doing the good that ought to be done. While also aware of avoiding the “sin of commission;” by doing what is bad.
In conclusion, to preserve our peace – and yield to divine stimulation, rather than act on self assertion – we may join the devout Francis of Assisi in a prayer of absolute submission:
“God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference.”