Some of the greatest lessons and the most profound truths are found in the opening pages of the Bible. Consider the story of Cain and Abel.
These two brothers were raised in the same home, but they were different. Abel tended sheep and Cain tilled the ground (Gen. 4:2). Children inherit traits from their parents. Boys imitate their fathers and girls are like their mothers. We say, “Like father, like son.” The Jews said, “As is the mother, so is the daughter” (Ezek. 16:44). The similarities can be striking. It is also surprising how different children can be from their parents and from each other. Like Cain and Abel, children have their own personalities and preferences.
Cain and Abel were different in their religious convictions. Abel offered worship to God by faith and Cain did not (Heb. 11:4). God accepted Abel’s offering but He rejected Cain’s (Gen. 4:3-5). Why should it surprise us when children today raised in the same home and the same church grow up to have conflicting attitudes about religion?
Religious differences can cause great animosity. Cain was furious when God rejected his offering, but he took out his resentment on his brother. Jesus said there would be division in families because of the gospel (Matt. 10:34-37).
Though there is often fault on both sides of conflict, this is not always the case. Abel was right and Cain was wrong. There may be two sides to every story, but that does not mean that both sides are always to blame.
Few things are more common among brothers and sisters than jealousy. Cain resented his brother. That is why he killed him (Gen. 4:8). There is no need to look for some deeper psychological cause for his actions. The Bible plainly tells us why he did it: “And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous” (I John 3:12). A good understanding of the Bible and a little common sense go a long way toward helping us to see what the problem is between brothers and sisters. Many times it is just plain envy. This spirit may not end in murder, but it will always cause trouble. It will cause backbiting. It will cause cutting remarks. It will divide families and cause hard feelings. There is almost no end to the harm that jealousy brings. “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” (James 3:16).
Though Abel’s life was taken from him, the influence of his good life was not. Cain’s jealousy got the upper hand, but Abel’s faith won out in the end. His good example still lives: “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh” (Heb. 11:4).