Bangor Church of Christ

Great Moments in Bible History

Number 4

A good question to ask

Why Are You Angry?

I don’t know whether anyone actually enjoys getting angry, but we certainly do a lot of it for something that we don't think we enjoy. In Genesis 4 is a story of someone who got very angry — the very first mention of anger in the Bible. We can learn a lot by observing how God dealt with that anger.

Angry man

In our first few issues of this paper we looked at Adam and Eve and the terrible mess they made of things by their unfortunate choice to disobey God. After God made clothes to cover their nakedness He sent them out of the garden. They will never be allowed back as long as they live. After that, things got a lot more difficult for them. They struggled just to get food to eat.

The next thing we read about in their story is that they had a baby whom they named Cain. Later they had a second son named Abel. From this point on we leave Adam and Eve and follow the story of their sons. Each of the sons grew up and entered a different career. Abel raised sheep and goats while Cain raised vegetables. The story gives us very few details about that part of their lives. Instead it looks at their worship of God.

The sons brought an offering to God. Each brought a gift from what he had been raising. Cain brought some vegetables. Abel brought some baby sheep or goats. This is all just as we would expect, but then the story takes an unusual turn. “And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering He had no regard.” (Genesis 4:4-5)

This is quite surprising to us. We would expect that if someone went to the trouble to prepare a gift for God that He would appreciate it. That is exactly how God behaved toward Abel, but not toward Cain. Why not? What God disliked was not Cain’s offering, but Cain himself. God rejected Cain’s gift because there was something He did not like about Cain.

The story does not say how He did it, but somehow God made it plain to both brothers that He accepted Abel and his offering, but not Cain or his offering. “So Cain was very angry and his face fell.” Can you blame Cain? If you go to the trouble to give someone a gift, the least they can do is say thank you. But instead of saying thanks God just ignored Cain’s gift!

God then asked Cain a very perceptive question, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?” If I could remember to ask myself that question every time I got angry, I would be a much better person. We get angry over things we consider to be important. No one ever gets angry over something that they do not care about. Our anger tells on us and actually tells things that we may not even be willing to admit to ourselves. Usually what it tells about us is that we are incredibly self-centered people. Our anger is almost always about us. Someone took the parking space that I wanted. Someone ignored me when I thought they should have spoken. Someone criticized me. Of course, I would never believe that I really think I am the most important person in the universe, but then I get angry. God wants me to consider the question, “Why are you angry?” “Me! Me! Me!” That’s what our anger says.

In the Bible this “me” attitude is called pride. The opposite attitude is to be humble. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) That was why God rejected Cain. No one can please God with a “me” attitude.

God continued questioning Cain. “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” Cain did not have to be like that. He could change his attitude. Then God gave him a very perceptive warning, “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” God pictured sin like a lion waiting for Cain to come out of his house so that it could pounce on him. Cain would be destroyed by his sinful “me” attitude unless he got busy and made some serious changes.

In our next paper we will learn the final outcome of Cain’s battle with his “me” attitude. It does not have a happy ending. If only Cain had listened when God asked him, “Why are you angry?”

Why Do We Worship?

Can you imagine someone bringing a gift to God who really does not care all that much about Him? It happens quite often, actually. It certainly was the case the very first time worship was mentioned in the Bible. Cain’s number one priority was himself. He was not interested in what God wanted and he did not try to do what God told him to do. So why did he bring an offering to God?

Worship

There are only two reasons that a person will worship God:

1)       Because they love and admire God; or

2)       Because they want to get something from God.

Cain’s brother Abel worshipped God because he loved and admired God. God accepted his worship. On the other hand, Cain worshipped because he hoped to get something from God. When God didn’t give it to him he got angry.

Throughout history the vast majority of people who have worshipped God have done so for Cain’s reason—to get something from Him. Even today a lot of people who consider themselves to be good Christians are not worshipping God because they love and admire Him, but because they want the things God can give them. I have known a number of Christians who have deliberately turned their backs on God when they decided that He was not giving them what they wanted.

It is a well-known fact that everyone wants to be friends with a rich person. “The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends.” (Proverbs 14:20) Who can possibly be richer than God? So everyone wants to be “friends” with God. This leaves God with a problem. How can He know who really is His friend?

That is the exact theme of the Old Testament Book of Job. The book starts with a description of how faithful Job was to God. It also describes how rich Job was. Then the scene changes to an argument between God and Satan. God insists that Job is really faithful. Satan insists that he is only faithful because he likes all the riches God has given him. So God allows Satan to do an experiment. Satan will take away all of Job’s riches so they can see if Job is just serving God for what he can get from Him. Job, of course, is not informed of this conversation. All he knows is that bad things suddenly start happening to him. Armed robbers come and steal all of his possessions. All of his sons and daughters are killed when a tornado touches down. It is really bad. Job’s response is one of faith: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

Satan refuses to admit defeat. He tells God that Job still has his health. If God will just let him take that away from Job, then Job will curse God to His face. God gives Satan permission and he proceeds to strike Job with a painful and loathsome disease. Nobody wants to be around Job after that. He is left to suffer by himself in intense pain. He can’t sleep at night. All he wants to do is die. But he does not curse God. He continues to trust in God just as he did back when he was healthy and rich.

So God was right about Job. He was not just friends with God for what he could get from Him. He really was a true friend of God. May our worship to God today be equally sincere.