“I am a good person.”
Have you ever heard or made this statement?
Our culture tells us we are “good” if we do the right thing. In our daily routines we do the “good” thing. Serve our family. Serve our neighbor. Serve the community. Serve the church. And though our intentions appear good on the surface, a not “good” response can surface if our service is not received in a way that we expect it should.
This familiar Bible story recounts how “good” our intentions can appear to be. The firstborn does the proper thing that is expected of him. He presents an offering of his labor to God. What is not described is why Cain’s offering was not regarded as acceptable.
What is described is his response: “Cain was furious, and he looked despondent…” (Genesis 4:5).
A first response—anger. This anger described in the original Hebrew word is fiery anger, an outburst.
This anger was written all over his face: his face fell. We have seen this response in our toddler. Our teenager. Our self. A pouting lip. A downcast face.
This outward response reflects the inward nature of our heart beneath the veneer of “goodness.”
The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?
Who understands the true nature of our hearts? God does.
That is why He responded to Cain’s outburst and fallen face with calm words of guidance (Genesis 4:6–7). Here, in a gentle, truthful, matter-of-fact tone of voice, is the first presentation of the good news—the gospel.
We can picture God getting down on one knee as we would with our toddler, looking at him eye to eye, and saying, “I see the true nature of your heart. Don’t let the slippery nature of sin take hold of you. Sin desires to keep you captive. But my desire for you is greater. And I will make a way available for you to rule over the powerful nature of sin, not have it rule over you” (v.7).
The literal meaning of the Hebrew word translated “desire” here is “stretching out.” Sin longs to stretch out its arm and capture us. There are moments we feel the tension of sin within us, pulling us limb to limb. But God’s reach for us is greater.
He gave us the gift of Jesus, His arms stretched out limb to limb on a wooden cross.
And because of this act of love on the cross, the power of sin can no longer have a hold on us.
God looks beyond the fallen face. He understands our deceitful hearts. His desire for us is so great He gave us a gift we did not deserve (Romans 6:23). That is the good news that surpasses our hearts’ good intentions!