Do you ever feel like your children are always fighting? It can be enough to drive mom nuts! Sibling fighting is not new. Moms and dads have been dealing with sibling rivalry and sibling conflict for thousands of years. In fact, the first two parents, Adam and Eve, had to deal with sibling rivalry that ended in murder.
What lessons can our children learn from Cain and Abel to help them learn to get along? What lessons can our children learn from Cain about how they ought to respond when they are hurt? What can we learn from God about the power of anger?
Cain & Abel (Genesis 4): The First Brothers in the Bible
Lesson #1 You Will Not Always Be Treated the Same
The first two brothers in the Bible were Cain and Able. Cain was the oldest brother and Abel, the younger. Cain followed in his dad’s footsteps and worked the land, and Abel was a shepherd. The Bible doesn’t tell us what it was like being the first and only children. We don’t know if Cain and Abel got along, or if they were always fighting with one another.
One day each of the brothers brought an offering to the Lord. As a farmer, Cain brought the first fruits of his labor to offer to the Lord. Abel, as a shepherd, brought the firstborn of his flock. Even though they each offered a sacrifice to the Lord from the first of what their labors had produced, God saw the offering differently.
“And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering, he had no regard. So, Cain was very angry, and his face fell.” Genesis 4:4-5
God chose Abel’s offering and not Cain’s offering. One brother found favor with God, and the other brother did not.
Children are not always treated precisely the same by their parents. Parents will have different expectations for older children than younger children. Parents may expect more based on a child’s skills and experience.
Sibling Rivalry Lesson #2 – Don’t Blame Your Sibling
When Cain didn’t win God’s approval, his heart immediately blamed his brother. Yet, Abel didn’t do anything wrong. Abel raised his sheep and when the time was right brought a new lamb for the sacrifice. Abel didn’t try to sabotage Cain’s crops. Abel didn’t say anything to the Lord to lift up himself up and put his brother down.
They both could have received favor from the Lord. Just because Abel won favor did not mean that then Cain would not win favor.
When we are angry, it can be easy to lash out at those closest to us. When someone has made us upset, it can be easy to be mad at those around us. We have to stop blaming others and direct our hearts back to God. We need to learn how to be happy for others, even we don’t win or don’t receive what we want.
Lesson#3 What to Do When You Have Been Treated Unfairly
Cain was upset and angry. Why did God not accept his offering? Sometimes our parent’s choices may seem unfair. How then should we respond? The root of sibling rivalry is sometimes jealousy at how one child is treated vs. another.
God notices Cain’s anger and tries to engage him in conversation. God does not ignore Cain’s pain, but it is right there to help him. Cain has an open door to God! God has just spoken to him, yet Cain’s anger seals off his ears and his heart.
When you are upset, don’t be like Cain! When you feel you are being mistreated, go to God in prayer. Seek God’s guidance and protection. Seek God’s wisdom and guidance. Anger will not produce a good outcome that we desire.
“…because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:20
When you feel you are treated poorly by your parents, go to them. Go to them with a heart that seeks to understand. By exercising self-control and keeping your disagreement between your parents and you, and not acting out on your siblings, you will be more likely for your cause to be heard.
Related Post: Consequences of Favoritism in the Bible
Sibling Rivalry Lesson #4 Watch Out For Anger
Cain and Abel’s sacrifices are both of the types we will see later in the temple. Yet, our sacrifices are not just physical but spiritual. Cain offered a sacrifice, but his heart was not right with God. How do we know this?
If Cain’s heart had been right with God, what should have been his first reaction after God did not accept his offering? His first reaction should have been sadness. If his heart was genuinely seeking after God, his focus should have been on getting right with God as quickly as possible.
God gives Cain instructions in verse 6. God encourages him that he can do better, but God also warns him that sin is “crouching at the door.” (v.7) Cain is angry and frustrated. He chooses not to speak to God but to Abel.
God warned Cain that sin was a dangerous animal that was waiting to devour his prey, Cain. However, Cain was so consumed with anger that he did not listen. In his anger, he sinned. We must guard our hearts against sin and listen to God’s counsel.
Related Post: How to Deal Biblically With Sibling Name-Calling
Sibling Rivalry Point #5 Acting Out Doesn’t Solve the Issue
“Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.” Genesis 8:1
In his anger, Cain killed his brother. Killing Abel didn’t solve Cain’s problem. If Cain wanted to win God’s favor, killing his brother was not the way to do it. Remember, this issue wasn’t really between Abel and Cain, but between Cain and God.
Pride can be a destructive thing. When Cain’s offering was not accepted, Cain’s pride was hurt. Sometimes we will throw away the thing that we most wanted when our hurt pride gets in the way. The purpose of the sacrifice was to build a deeper relationship with God. When Cain failed the first time, his pride was hurt.
Instead of trying again, as God urged him to do, he instead decided he was going to cast it all away. Acting out in anger did not solve Cain’s problem.
Sibling Rivalry Point#6 You Can’t Lie to God
Cain tried to lie to himself. He told himself the lie that the reason his offering was rejected was all Abel’s fault. Then, after Cain killed Abel, he tried to lie to God and say that he knew nothing about it. The God who could see the real motives in Cain’s heart when he came to sacrifice, was the same God that had seen Cain kill his brother.
We cannot hide from God. God knows when we are treated unfairly. God also knows when we are treating others unfairly. God knows our true motives. God knows with what our hearts are really struggling. God knows our pain, our pride, our shame, and our brokenness.
Just as God was quick to notice Cain’s pain and to reach out to him, God is willing and ready to reach out to us. As Christians, we need to take our pain, anger, and hurt to God. We don’t need to put on a front and pretend that we are okay. God can handle our struggles.
Sibling Rivalry Lesson #7 God is Merciful, but Sin has Consequences
What if? What if Cain had turned to God and listened? If Cain had swallowed his pride and chosen humility rather than anger and pride? If Cain had listened to God, he would have still had a brother and his family. He would have had a home and work that was fruitful.
Sin has consequences. Sin breaks relationships. Sin breaks families.
Cain and Abel should have been lifelong partners and friends. All of that was destroyed by anger. Abel was the gift of a friend to Cain from God, but Cain saw him as a rival for God’s affections.
Are you “Abel” to Love your Siblings?
Your siblings are a gift from God. Your siblings are not your rivals. Guard your emotions and guard your relationship with your siblings.
Your siblings are sinners, just like you. There will be many times that they mistreat you or are mean to you, just as there will be many times that you sin against them.
Guard your heart against anger. Don’t let anger cause you to lash out at others. Don’t let anger cause you to do something you can’t undo. Don’t let anger cause you to ignore God.
The most important relationship in this life is with God. It is natural to want God’s favor and love. When we receive correction from the Lord, seek to respond with humility. One of the best sacrifices of love that we can offer ourselves and others is to learn self-control over anger.