He surely was a heartless, cruel and proud man!
He had slain his brother in cold blooded murder. Never had he seen a human death before. Never had he heard even of such an awful crime. Now his own hands have performed it. And calmly, without any smiting of his conscience he buries his brother under the sand. Without a qualm of emotion he walks away from the scene of his crime. Having performed the first murder in the history of this world, he is not even troubled enough by it to go and tell his parents of the awful thing he has done.
What is more, he is not afraid to answer the Almighty, who is the source and fount of all life, in a proud and haughty way. When asked, “Where is Abel thy brother?” he dares to counter with the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Surely he is not a man who is living “in His fear”. Indeed, Cain, you are your brother’s keeper! And we can understand and explain his fearless, haughty answer when we consider that he first deliberately lied to the Almighty and said that he did not know where his brother was.
Plainly, he is a child of the devil, the father of lies, and is under his diabolical influence. Hence the lie has a hold on him. And the lie warps man’s mind. It gives him the wrong picture entirely. It distorts everything. He may still see things, but he does not see them as they really are. This is so because the lie always ignores God. It leaves Him and His glory out of the picture. Then nothing that we see has any meaning. One might better try to take the sun out of the universe and still expect to find life than to rule God out of His own creation and still expect to see the beauty, the glory and reason for all that which does exist. Forget the God who made your brother and neighbor, and you cannot see yourself as his keeper. For whom will you keep him? Forget, or worse still, deliberately rule Him out and you cannot see anything that He has made in its right light. It simply is impossible to ignore Him and still see things right and to understand rightly the relationships in which He created things. Ignore Him, and that in itself reveals that you do not see Him in the right light. But that wisest of all men, who was guided by the infinite wisdom of the Spirit who infallibly guided him, wrote, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and the knowledge of The holy one is understanding.” There is no fear of God before Cain’s eyes. That is why he can ask such a proud and diabolical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Do not repeat Cain’s question!
Do not live it!
The fear of the Lord is a rather important element in our lives. It will have a profound effect on all our practical life. In His fear we will be our brother’s keeper. In His fear we will want to be our brother’s keeper.
So let us dismiss Cain.
You and I are our brother’s keepers. And if we are honest with ourselves, we will confess that although our Heavenly Father has kept us from inflicting the death blow upon our brother, our hearts are by nature capable of all that lack of fear of the Lord which moves us to cruelty to the brother. We may not dare to touch him physically because he is stronger than we are. The sight of blood and the sound of moaning may so unnerve us that we cannot do such a deed. But the will to do so, the bitter hatred, the fit of anger that precedes such a deed is so very strong in all of us. And presently, in the next installment, we hope to make plain how frequently we do shrug our shoulders and borrowing a page from Cain’s notebook, we also say, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Indeed we are, as well as Cain was.
We may say, without the fear of contradiction, that we are our brother’s keeper both in the realm of the natural and of the spiritual. The Scriptures admonish us to be his keeper in both spheres. And that does not refer merely to the brother according to the flesh. We are the keeper of our every neighbor. The father and mother in the home keep their eyes open for the physical wellbeing of their children. And in the baptismal vow they have also promised to keep an eye open for the spiritual instruction of their seed. They have promised to be their children’s keeper. The same thing is demanded of the brother unto the brother. Let us see once what the Scriptures have to say about this matter.
At the very outset we are reminded of the second table of the Law wherein God expresses to us the proper relationship between a man and his neighbor. The form is entirely negative here, and therefore it does not express literally the work and the calling of the brother’s keeper. We are, however, indebted to Jesus for His interpretation of that Law and also to the explanation we find in our Heidelberg Catechism.
Among other things Jesus gave us that fundamental principle which is the interpretation of the whole second table of the Law, “Do unto others what ye would have them do unto you.” That takes care of everything, of every relationship between man and man. That covers every possession and faculty which God has given to man. And that is not negative. In it Jesus tells us what we must do. What you enjoy, seek to help your neighbor enjoy also. Strive to make him happy, to keep him free from care and anxiety. By all means do not practice those things which would worry him and cause him to have a troubled mind. DO unto him what you would to have him do unto you, and then the negative side will take care of itself.
That this neighbor does not look upon you with friendly eyes, that he does not lift one finger to be your keeper does not change the calling you have in the least. This same Jesus Who told us to do unto others what we would have them do unto us does not to any degree or in any way put a limitation upon those “others”. In fact in another connection He exactly states, “…do good to them that hate you…” You are still his keeper. You are yet to do to him what you would like to have him do unto you.
To continue with that which the Scriptures say in regard to this seeking of the wellbeing of the brother we can also turn to those words of the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Philippians, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” Nay, this is not advice to be “nosey” and to interfere with the affairs of others. But it does teach us that we must not be so selfish and narrow minded in our own business that we go thru with our plans, our developments and ambitions when we know that we are going to injure the brother’s business. It means that the believer will never crowd his neighbor, and surely not his brother in Christ, so that he is forced out of business and so that you may monopolize the trade in that area. You did do that? You, who could better afford it, cut your prices below that which he could afford, you took advantage of his unexpected financial hardships and foreclosed upon him without pity and mercy, you looked the other way when he reached out for a helping hand and began to count how much you would be benefited by his downfall? You DID? Then go sit beside your brother Cain. And never let men hear you say one word about Cain’s heartless, cruel, unbrotherly deeds. Listen! The Apostle prefaced these words with the following, “If there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels of mercy, fulfill ye my joy, that ye may be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem the other better than themselves.” It speaks for itself, does it not?
The Apostle wrote a similar thing to the Corinthians in his first epistle to this congregation. He writes, “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.” That word wealth, here in I Cor. 10:24, is in italics which means that it does not appear in the original. We will not enter here the discussion as to what element of the neighbors we are to seek, the point is brought forth clearly here again that we must be our brother’s keeper.
Before we run out of space in this installment we do wish yet to quote from the Heidelberg Catechism to maintain this principle that we are our brother’s keeper. In explanation of the sixth commandment our Fathers state that God here required of us that we show to our neighbor “patience, peace, meekness, mercy and all kindness” and that we “prevent his hurt as much as in us lies: and that we do good even to our enemies.” Again in answer to the question as to what is required in the eighth commandment we are told that God demands that “I promote the advantage of my neighbor in every instance I can or may; and deal with him as I desire to be dealt with by others: further also that I faithfully labor so that I may be able to relieve the needy.” Indeed, let us not forget the needy brother. We are also his keeper. And the ninth commandment we are told requires of us that we “defend and promote as much as” we “are able, the honor and good character of” our “neighbor”. That certainly makes it sufficiently clear for us to maintain that we as well as Cain, are our brother’s keeper in the sphere of the natural things.
The above we will not, perhaps, readily deny. Even the world speaks of a certain “brotherhood of all men” and has its Red Cross, Red Feather, Community Chest or what have you whereby men seek the wellbeing of their fellow men. In the Church of Jesus Christ there is another way in which we are our brother’s keeper. And that calling of ours is very easily denied today. Nay, the Scriptural principle of it is not openly discredited, but in practice it is for convenience sake and for fleshly pleasure ignored. Listen to what the apostle Paul says to the Corinthians in regard to their brothers in Christ, “Take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours becomes a stumbling block to them that are weak…when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.” You are your brother’s keeper also in the things you allow and practice. You can bury him under the sand, shrug your shoulders and walk calmly and indifferently away. But you still are your brother’s keeper. More of this next time, the Lord willing.