The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.Genesis 4:4b-5
The account says that Cain was angry at God's rejection of his offering, and his face was downcast. Obviously he came expecting God to accept his offering. Perhaps he was very pleased with himself. Perhaps he felt that his offering of fruit and grain was much more beautiful, much more aesthetically pleasant, than this bloody, dirty thing that Abel put on the altar. But when the smoke rose from Abel's offering and his own remained untouched, Cain's smile changed to a frown. He was angry and resentful.
How well we know this feeling! And for the same reason: jealousy. He was jealous because his brother was accepted and he was rejected. As the New Testament tells us, he was angry
because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous (1 John 3:12), and so he was filled with jealousy.
Aren't the things that make us jealous amazing? We are jealous because our neighbors have a bigger car than we have. Our co-workers may have a desk that is nearer to the window than ours. Or perhaps they get a longer notice of commendation in the company newsletter than we do, or their picture is larger. We get angry if their name is in larger print or they have softer carpets on the floor or have two windows instead of one, as in our office. It is amazing how petty these matters are that cause us to be filled with jealousy and resentment and to rankle with a feeling of envy.
Behind it is exactly the same reason Cain was angry. He did not like the way God was acting; that is the whole point. He did not like what God had chosen to do for Abel. It was not a question of being upset because fruit was not as good as a lamb. Looking at it later we can see such implications, but that was not what was troubling Cain. What bothered him was simply that God did not conform to his idea of rightness. When God presumes to cut across the grain of our expectation, we are all offended, aren't we? We are quick with the question,
How can God do a thing like this? Why does God permit this? It is all because we want our thoughts to be the program on which God operates. When He presumes to do anything else, how angry we get with Him!
But notice God's grace. He does not flare back at Cain with thunderbolts of judgment. He simply asks him a question,
Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? That is the best question to ask a jealous, resentful individual.
Why? Think it through, now, why are you so angry? Why are you filled with resentment against this person?
I have learned that when men and women ask me, as they sometimes do,
Why does this have to happen to me? the only proper answer is,
Why shouldn't it happen to you? These things happen to everyone and to anyone; why shouldn't it happen to you? Why should you escape? Why should you assume that you have special immunity to the normal problems, injustices, and trials of life?
How often I flare up with jealous anger Lord, when I feel I am being robbed of what I deserve. Forgive me, and continue to remind me that Your ways are, indeed, not my ways.
When our expectations of God or others are not met, we are often quick to anger. Are we willing to recognize our resentment for what it is and turn back to trusting God?