What is in your heart?

That is the question the story of Cain and Abel in the Old Testament seeks to answer. The narrative does not tell us why God chose Abel’s offering over Cain’s. Only that it was so.

In life, we face rejection for reasons that are not known to us. We only know that we were not chosen. Do we succumb to bitterness, jealousy and hatred? Or do we find forgiveness in our hearts?

Theological debates of blood sacrifice aside, we offer what we can offer.

Abel was a herdsman and offered the first of the flock and the fat. Cain was a farmer and offered fruits from the ground. We give what we can provide.

But do we do it with our hearts or is there some ulterior motive hidden behind what we do?

Sometimes the events and circumstances that occur in our lives bring forth our inner demons. We may feel what we feel, but do we choose to act on those feelings?

In Cain’s case, the answer was yes. He was so enraged, so incensed that he saw it fit to kill his own brother.

According to the Hebrew Bible, Adam and Eve were the first man and woman. They knew how to kill animals for bodily sustenance and to clothe themselves.

But they did not know murder.

Cain was the first murderer. He killed in cold blood.

The First Mourning (Adam and Eve mourn the death of Abel). Painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The seed of envy that was planted in his heart grew into an uncontrollable rage. It is that which led him to kill Cain.

Perhaps by accepting why people–and even God–have the preferences that they do, would be the first step towards understanding how to overcome rejection and not allow it to plant a seed of bitterness in our heart.

I would like to end by asking the same question I started with. What is in your heart?

11 thoughts on “Cain and Abel | A Parable on Jealousy

  1. Interesting analysis on the story of Cain and Abel. It is easy to blame others (even God) for who we become. But it is our choices that reveal who we are in our hearts.

  2. What would the world look like if Cain had never acted on that seed of hatred and envy? These bible stories provide powerful allegories into the nature of human beings. We are given choices and we do terrible things with it. I had a thought–imagine what would have come of Abel’s bloodline? Destroyed before it could even manifest.

    Oh my brain is full of ‘what if’ hypotheses.

    1. There are consequences for our actions. By creating imbalances, there will be a price to pay somewhere down the line. And Cain does have a price to pay… Maybe Michael can cover that in his next post!

  3. Wow, that was an wonderful analysis of the mythical story. True enough, so many thoughts pass our mind but the way we act upon those feelings that makes the difference. And sure enough, rejection is a part of our journey, we should just learn to deal with it and move on, instead of allowing it to plant bitterness in our heart. I guess, this is one of the most important lesson that we must all remember while embarking on our life’s journey.

  4. While I think there is a very good reason why one was labeled a farmer and the other a herdsman as it relates to their sacrifices, I think the main meaning is as you say…..a matter of the heart. I often wondered what the story would have been like if Cain simply repented.

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