This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another. We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was righteous. 1 John 3:11-12
When a toddler shifts from being an only child to being an older brother or sister, it is not uncommon to see that child regress. For example, sometimes a child will want to start drinking from a bottle again, crawl instead of walk, suck their thumb, and start copying other behaviors that they see their new sibling doing. The jealousy, or envy, that that toddler feels of the attention that their new baby brother or sister receives causes regression and keeps them from meeting milestones. Isn't that what envy does? It keeps us from moving forward, stuck in the past, and bad habits. It hinders our growth.
John warns about envy in 1 John chapter 3. "We must not be like Cain, he writes, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was righteous" (verse 12). Now, in order to understand what John is teaching us here, we have to look back on the story of Cain and Abel, which is found in Genesis chapter 4. Cain and Abel were brothers, sons of Adam and Eve. In this chapter, we learn that when they offered sacrifices, Abel offered an offering that was pleasing to God, while Cain offered an offering that was unacceptable to Him. Because of this, Cain became very envious of His brother. His envy led him to murder his brother.
Envy causes us to do things that we immediately regret. It leads us down roads where we never intended to go. If we can stop and recognize it, we can eliminate it. When we see it in ourselves, we can take steps forward. Let's be people who refuse to give envy a foothold.
Before you can let go of envy, you have to recognize it when it creeps up in your life. Take some time right now to reflect. Is there an area of your life where envy is lurking? If you find yourself bitter or angry at someone's accomplishments, chances are that envy has taken root. After acknowledging envy in your life, spend some time praying. Tell God about the envy that has taken root in your life, and then ask for forgiveness and help to move forward.
Read Genesis 4:1-16 (NLT)
Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!” Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel.
When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.
“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.
Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”
“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”
But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”
Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear! You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”
The Lord replied, “No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him. So Cain left the Lord’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.