Read the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4:1-16.
We don’t know from the story how Cain knew that Abel’s offering had been received and that his had been rejected. That part isn’t clear. We just read that “The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering.” So, I don’t know if God spoke to Abel and appreciated or approved of his offering or if there was some visual communication that let Cain know his wasn’t, but Cain didn’t take it well.
He was not only angry, but he was visibly angry. And in verse 7, God confronted him about his anger. This is what God said. 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 master it.
God warned Cain that his anger could lead him to sin.
God warned him that his anger had the potential to take control over him.
God challenged him to get control of his anger so that he wouldn’t be controlled by it.
But instead of listening to the warnings and the challenge, Cain let anger lead. When we let anger lead, destruction will follow.
In anger, he devised a plan. We should NEVER make plans when we are angry!
Cain devised a plan to kill Abel. He planned to get him alone, to take him out into the field, to isolate him so that he could kill him.
It is obvious from the story that: When you live angry and respond angrily to people or circumstances, you create victims.
As Christians, we are called to help people live victoriously, to help people live as victors not to create victims as a result of our inability to control our feelings, our words and our behaviors.
I think the first thing we need to think through when we are angry is what God was trying to get Cain to identify. In verse six, God asked Cain, “Why are you so angry?” So, step one to overcoming anger is:
Figure out why you are angry.
Are you angry at someone else because you think they have beaten you, one-upped you, or received something you deserved? Are you angry at God because He didn’t bless you in the way you expected him to or because you think he is paying more attention to someone else’s prayer life? Or are you angry with yourself because you know you haven’t been what you have needed to be and you have sabotaged your own success and cut off your own blessing somehow by living for yourself instead of doing things God’s way, instead of doing things the wrong way?
And why is it so important that we understand the root of our anger? Because the root of most anger is often hurt and fear. Anger is the fruit of what is at the root. Knowing why we are angry can help us deal with the hurt and fear and frustration that is really the issue. If you don’t understand why you are angry, you will never deal with the root cause and have it taken care of. Without understanding you will just perpetuate behaviors that will keep you bound to anger. Relationships will be harmed, and your reputation will become that of an angry person when what you really are is someone who has been hurt or who is afraid. Don’t misrepresent yourself by giving in to the anger.
What God wanted to help Cain understand is that anger can lead to sin. Look again at verse 7:7 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 master it.” Anything that can lead to sin is dangerous and has to be submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
Abel had done nothing wrong. Cain would have done well to follow Abel’s example. God had encouraged Cain in verse 3 to also do what Abel had done, to also bring an offering in the right way. It was a choice Cain could have made. His anger could have been diffused if he would have just done the right thing, and if he had, we would be able to read about Abel’s life and legacy and the wonderful things He did, had Cain just done the right thing. When we are angry, we have a choice to make. We can do the right thing or we can to what feels right. The outcomes will be totally different. Being angry isn’t a sin, but acting in anger is a sinful choice.
God asked Cain to give an account for his actions. He said, “Cain, where is your brother?” Cain snapped at God. “How am I supposed to know? Am I my brother’s keeper?” There were consequences for Cain. It was more than having the car taken away. It was more than having video games taken away. It was more than being grounded. This was serious. Look at it again from verse 12:
12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”
Life was going to be much harder for Cain. That is what anger does. Anger makes life harder. There was going to be a lack of peace in his life. Cain would be a restless wanderer. Restless people can’t sleep. Their stomach stays in knots. They stay stirred up because Anger steals our peace.
There was another consequence we see from verse 16: “So Cain went out from the LORD‘s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” Anger will put distance between us and God. Angry people aren’t seeking God. Angry people aren’t pursuing the Word. Angry people don’t want to worship. Angry people aren’t inclined to pray. Do you see, anger is a tool of Satan to keep you from being productive, from being peaceful, and to keep you from living a righteous and purposeful life.
Cain lost his farm, lost the favor of God, and lived as a fugitive because of uncontrolled anger. It isn’t worth it to nurture our anger. It isn’t worth it to pacify it. It isn’t worth it to justify it and act on it when we are angry. We must get rid of it. Paul says in Ephesians 4:31, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Paul doesn’t want us to get rid of it by simply dismissing it. We need to get to the root of it and wrestle that root to the ground with God’s help.
Anger is so dangerous, so destructive that we can’t just try to manage it; we need to get rid of it completely. Ephesians 4:26 that I shared earlier says that we should not let the sun go down on our anger. Some people might interpret it to say, “Don’t go to bed mad.” I would interpret it this way: Don’t go to bed without investigating why you are angry. Don’t go to bed without releasing that pain, that grief, that frustrating, that fear to God, and don’t go to bed without asking God to help you with your anger. And, do that every day! Learning to release your anger to God and learning to seek His perspective on the things in life that cause us to feel angry is something we have to train ourselves to do on a regular basis. Then, we can create a righteous plan in order to respond to the hurt, fear, and frustrations that happen in life.
Identify WHY you are angry, and take THAT to God.
Resist developing any plan and making any move while you are angry.
Daily lay down your hurt, fear, and frustration before the throne of God.
And when God makes His will clear, choose to do the right thing.
You WILL see a way out. You WILL see a way through. You WILL see the blessing of God.