And why is your face fallen? Surely, if you do right, there is uplift. But if you do not do right, sin crouches at the door; Its urge is toward you, yet you can be its master. Genesis 4:6-7 (TJSB)
Sin Crouches at the Door – Keepers – Series 1 – Part 5
(Go to Series 2)
Two brothers each brought a gift to God. A free will, unrequired gift. One brought a lamb, the other, fresh produce. God accepted Abel's gift, the lamb. But Cain's? He didn’t even take the gift and put it up the back of the cupboard like we would when we get a ‘dud’ gift from our crazy uncle or aunt. Which ticked Cain off big time.
“Why are you distressed?”
God asked Cain.
“And why is your face fallen? Surely, if you do right, there is uplift. But if you do not do right, sin crouches at the door; Its urge is toward you, yet you can be its master.” (1.) (Gen 4:6-7 TJSB) .
Before we get carried away thinking that if Cain had only brought the right GIFT, he would have been fine, here’s a couple of things to take note of:
1). ‘Not doing right' and ‘sin' are two different things in God's response.
2). It would seem that Cain did not sin by bringing his gift, but the motive for bringing the gift created the opportunity for sin.
3). Sin has a desire, and we are to control that desire.
The word used for sin in Genesis 4 when God is talking to Cain, and back in Genesis 3 when he’s talking to Adam post forbidden fruit saga, is translated as “the evil inclination.” In its original Hebrew, it’s “Yetzer Hara.” It’s your animal soul; raw, unadulterated passion; it’s the source of all your self-serving.
Which isn’t necessarily bad or evil. Without a sense of “self-serving” we wouldn’t eat, sleep, work, have relationships… Our animal instinct serves a purpose in our lives…
As long as we are not serving it.
This is what God was talking about when he said to Cain: “If you do not do right, sin crouches at the door…”
If you do not bridle those passions, direct them, rule over them, let them funnel into life and health and gratitude, they will open you up to pain and suffering; the stuff that separates us from each other, God and love. Sin.
How does this relate to Cain's offering?
There is so much to unpack on this. For further reading, check out a book by Rabbi David Fohrman called, “The Beast That Crouches at the Door.” Super interesting!
But back to the devotion.
Cain, the acquirer, the man who farmed and owned land and took pride in his creativity, started to get a little too big for his boots. He brought God a gift, not from an overflow of gratitude, but from an animal desire – Yetzer Hara – to keep what was his protected and safe and, well, his. It was insurance. “God, I’ll give you this, and in return…”
That’s how we’ve treated sacrifice almost from the beginning of time. “God will be appeased if we spill blood for him. He will give us what we need and want if we do this or that… How can we keep God happy enough to do what we want him to do?”
Jesus came to show us that our relationship with the Divine was never, and has never been, about insurance. It’s not a ticket to heaven, and it’s not a twisting of the arm to get forgiveness or blessings.
Abel’s gift came from an overflow of gratitude. We can assume this because Genesis tells us that he brought the best of what he had. It wasn’t about what he brought, but why and how.
Cain brought what he thought would be just enough to keep God happy.
By serving his evil inclination as such, God warned him that rather than being able to look himself and others in the eye with integrity (why is your face fallen? Surely, if you do right, there is uplift. Gen 4:6), his unbridled, animal passion would open the door to sin.
As Abel would soon experience.
Written by Liz Milani