At least, it’s not the pathway to real success. Yet it’s a common technique, so much so that we have the phrase, “dog eat dog world.” We know how this works. I’m not looking good or doing what I should, so instead I’ll make the other person look bad. Unfortunately, this technique is brutally effective. Look at our politics or our advertising. Look at the reality TV programs we have where folks try to cast others in a bad light in order to win favor and win it all. But while it may succeed in the short term, for this world, it ultimately won’t succeed with God. That’s where it matters most.
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” – Genesis 4:8-12, ESV
We know Cain’s offering didn’t measure up to that of his brother’s. God confronted Cain and made it clear that if Cain did what was right, God would accept that. Cain was offered a second chance. Cain had every opportunity to measure up. But that’s not the road he took. Instead, Cain chose to get his brother alone, kill him, then hide the body. When confronted about it by God, he tried to act like he didn’t know what happened to Abel. Of course God knew and He called Cain on it. Because Cain didn’t do what was right and because he compounded that sin with even more sin, God turned to punishment and discipline.
The right course of action would have been for Cain to simply correct his offering. Very often we’re in the same boat. We know what we need to do but for whatever reason we aren’t able to do it. Maybe circumstances prevent us. Or it could be skill and capability. It could even be time. None of us like to fail. None of us like to not succeed. It isn’t a good feeling for most. We also don’t want people thinking of us in those terms, as less becomes of a mistake or failure that we’ve had. Therefore, it’s easy to feel like we can “level the field” by attacking whoever is doing well, whoever is succeeding. We probably won’t to go as far as killing the person, but we’ve seen that, too, like when a mom killed a teenager so her daughter could be on the cheerleading squad. By attacking the person in the lead, we may change the opinions of those around us, we may be able to persuade them that we aren’t the ones who messed up or we may get them to overlook that fact as they focus on some flaw or issue with the other guy. And like I said, while this may work for the people around us, it never works with God. He sees right through it, just like He saw right through Cain’s deception.
The key to breaking away from this behavior is rooted in humility. Humility is most clear when we take an accurate look at ourselves compared with Jesus Christ. His holiness, His righteousness, His perfection, and everything about Him should cause us to realize that we’re nothing special. It helps us realize that when we compare ourselves with others around us, the differences between us and those people are effectively nothing when compared with the difference between us and Jesus Christ. If you’re familiar with the idea of orders of magnitude, you can probably start to understand what I mean. If you’re not, compare this. If I’m a 5 and you’re a 9 and the scale is 1 to 10, that 4 point difference is big. But if I’m a 5 and you’re a 9 and Jesus is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000 (and even this is selling Jesus well short, but it works for example purposes), then what’s 4 between the two of us? Absolutely nothing when brought in the light that Christ is so much greater. That then raises the question of, “Why spend so much effort to bring a 9 down to a 3 or 4 when the real number for comparison is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000?” It just doesn’t make sense. It’s a waste of time and effort.
Therefore, let us strive instead to do the best we can. Let us strive to bring the offering God would desire of us. That’s where the real issue is: with us. That’s what God is looking at, not where our fingers are pointing at another. If we focus on what we can do, on what our priorities are, and what kind of people we should be, then we avoid the mistake Cain made and we take advantage of the many chances God gives us to be better. After all, that’s what He’s after when He calls us to Himself: to remake us to be like His Son. That’s sanctification and that’s an on-going process while we live this life. Let us put aside revenge and attacks against other because they are fruitless tricks that don’t stand up to the scrutiny of God. Instead, let us focus on what does, and that’s simply to give maximum effort to the right priorities at the right time.