Your brother, where is he?
Do you know where he is! We have not now in mind his physical presence in some geographic spot of this earth. But spiritually do you know where your brother is? As his keeper you have not sent him into darkness and sin and then covered him with sand and walked away as wicked Cain did, have you?
You have not walked in sin yourself, you have not coaxed him along into sin, you have not set for him the awful example till he became as skilled at that sin as you are and then lifted your chin and said when this is called to your attention, “am I my brother’s keeper?” You have not done that have you?
Jesus was very careful to warn the Jews not to offend one little child in . He said that it were better for that man that a millstone had been hanged about his neck and that he were cast into the sea than that he should fail to be that brother’s keeper and cause him to stumble into sin.
We are beginning to realize more clearly every day that we cannot live an isolated physical existence here below. We begin to find how complex life is today. We are not merely influenced by what happens in our immediate families. What happens in our city and state also affects our family and personal life. What happens in our country may change our external life entirely. The actions of a group of men in Europe had such a profound effect on our lives these thousands of miles away that we had to have the portion of our food allotted to us and in many other ways to have our life regimented. Because of what happened on the other side of our globe there are vacant chairs in homes all over our country. But what I do today also has a far more profound effect upon all round about me than it did in times past. My carelessness can cause a great traffic snarl that delays many in their return home from work, prevents others from punching the clock on time and losing a part of their wages. My failure to keep my car under control may result in a power line being snapped as the pole that holds it is struck. Hundreds may be without electricity, meals cannot be cooked, cakes in the oven are spoiled, houses become cold since thermostats do not function, fuel is not ignited, perhaps iron lungs fail to operate and polio victims die. It did not use to be thus, but so it is today.
However, do not overlook the fact that in the realm of the spiritual your actions, what you allow, what you practice, where you go, what you seek for entertainment, what you read, etc., etc., you do not do all alone in a corner either. And we ought to remember that in all that which we do, we are our brother’s keeper! :
In the passage we already quoted, Jesus warns us against offending others by our sinful walk. And we ought, then, to have the scriptural idea of offending. Offending is not an act of hurting one’s feelings, It goes far deeper and is far more evil than that. The word, that is the original word, used in the text and elsewhere in Scripture for “offend” is one that means “cause to stumble”. He that offends one of these little ones is one who by his sinful example and practice leads others into the practice of that same sin or even to encourage them to greater sins. The “brother’s keeper” will never do that! He will rather seek and do all in his power to keep the brother from a sinful walk. He will strive to do all he can to keep the brother spiritually healthy. He will not bury, him under the sand so as to forget him. He will not go on in his own iniquity before the eyes of the brother, unconcerned as to whether he tempts the brother or not. He will refrain even from an appearance of sin lest he encourage others into sin.
That surely was in the mind of the Apostle when he wrote to the Romans in , “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to, drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.” He had already written in verse 13 “Let us not therefore judge one another anymore: but rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” Now it is true that the Apostle is speaking in both these instances of eating and drinking things that were considered unclean when Israel lived under the types and shadows of the Old Dispensation. But Jesus Himself applies this truth to a narrower sphere even than that of brother and brother. He declares in Matthew 18:8 that if our hand or our eye offend us, it would, be better to be without that eye and that hand than with them to be led in the way of destruction. And in that same connection He also states that truth “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” Cause none to be led into sin by your example! For you are your brother’s keeper. And for that reason we ought to walk circumspectly. Especially because we live in those days which the apostle, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, characterized as days when men shall be “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” should we remember our calling to be our brother’s keeper. Never in the history, of the world has the human race, especially in the land where we live, had so much time for pleasure. Labor saving and time saving devices have turned out to be pleasure-assuring and time-for pleasure-giving devices. Radio, television not only, but also the automobile have all brought the things of pleasure within the reach of all of us. How careful then we ought to be what pleasures we seek, what recreation we seek and to what degree we indulge in these things. We may not steer our brother to the world, may we? We may not set the example for him, may we?, that last things are first and that the kingdom of God is a necessary afterthought when time off for pleasure permits. Be sure that your actions do not speak such language!
And do not cover your brother with sand and say that keeping your brother is your pastor’s duty and the work assigned to the elders whom God has called to be watchmen upon the walls of Zion. To be sure, it is the duty of him who is called to be an under shepherd of the flock of Christ to keep the sheep in the fear of the Lord. And to the elders are given the keys of the kingdom of heaven. But being your brother’s keeper is also your calling and duty. Those in special offices may have special responsibilities, but you in your office of every believer have the responsibility of that office.
We surely do not wish to minimize or leave the impression that we are minimizing the greatness of the responsibility of those who are before the eyes of God’s people because of their offices. Do not the Scriptures lay down for us the principles according to which we must choose our elders and deacons? Does Paul not in instruct Timothy to the effect that an elder must be one who is “of good behavior” even “having his children in subjection with all gravity”? And in he tells Timothy that he ought to be “an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” The same is true, though it is not stated literally, from what the Old Testament declares to us in . There the watchman upon Zion’s walls is reminded of his responsibility to warn the people against the enemy. Now, surely, such watchmen cannot warn and are not warning the citizens of Zion when they themselves are fraternizing with the enemy in order to find a little pleasure and amusement. One in office surely does have to be careful even of that which he laughs at and wherein he shows pleasure and joy. And in the fear of the Lord he must be afraid to leave any other impression with those whose eyes are upon him than that he lives “in His fear”.
The same thing holds true of every child of God. And we can never be too careful. Paul says, “whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s” . And in the preceeding verse he says, “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.” We try to live unto ourselves. We like to live as we please and let the brother perish, if he stands in the way of our pleasure. What does it concern us if the brother dies or becomes spiritually weaker and more and more sinful ? How ready we are to question whether we are our brother’s keeper. Can we not live our own lives, must we always and forever be concerned with the spiritual walk of our brother in Christ? Indeed we must! And one can never walk too carefully.
Cain was his brother’s keeper. But Abel was also Cain’s keeper, and therefore he rebuked him and pointed him to the right way. He lost his life for being his brother’s keeper. But he received his reward from God. And as our brother’s keeper let us not overlook the fact that this includes brotherly admonitions to those who do seek the pleasures and treasures of this world. It makes no difference who that brother is, give him a brotherly admonition as Abel did. Set him a good example, as Abel did, so that your rebuke and admonition is not nullified by your deeds, but then in the spirit of brotherly love call his attention to his worldly life. And the brother who is spiritual will welcome such loving concern on your part. The reprobate, unregenerated neighbor will resent it and perhaps follow Cain’s example. But it still remains your calling as his keeper to warn him, admonish him and point out to him the way he ought to go. And as your spiritual brother’s keeper it is your calling to help him along the difficult way of faith in this world of darkness and sin.
You are your brother’s keeper.
But are you? Are you conscious of it? Are you behaving as such in all your life? Can you honestly say, I set him a good example. Living in His fear, you will desire to see the brother walk in His fear.