ACCOUNTABILITY AND THE LACK OF IT
ACCOUNTABILITY AND THE LACK OF IT
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
10 MARCH 1996
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
We probably all have heard the story of Cain and Abel, and how the first murder occurred, but we don't very often look at the cause and the result of this action upon the society that came later.
As we look at this early developing society, and what the people considered to be acceptable, we should easily see what is happening in our society today; for human nature is really still the same.
We have lost much of our accountability.
Let's begin our spiritual journey by looking at Genesis 4:1f.
1. Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, "I have gotten a manchild with the help of the Lord."
2. And again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
Try to picture yourself in such a family.
There are only four people, and possibly some other unmentioned children, in the entire world.
This family is all alone except for God and the animals.
They can make something wonderful of their lives, or they can cause disaster.
It all depends upon whether or not each one considers himself or herself accountable to anyone but himself or herself.
3. So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground.
4. And Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering;
It should be noted here that this does not necessarily mean that Able sacrificed these firstlings, for the word "fat" is also used metaphorically to mean the "the best of", or it could mean the fat from their milk, (the cream).
Furthermore, since that is no mention of burnt offerings, which was the way the animal fat was offered, it is more likely that this passage is not referring to a sacrifice.
What we are looking at are simple offerings of the "fruit" of their labors.
On the surface, they both seem to be hard working and productive, and accountable to the Lord.
5. but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.
Here is where we begin to see the true nature of their characters.
Why did the Lord look favorably upon Abel's offering and not upon Cain's?
After all, they both brought the best of what they had.
But what was the difference?
Let's look at two possibilities:
The Lord had previously shown their parents about accountability.
From later traditions and the Law, if people sinned, they should bring a blood offering before the Lord, that the soul of the innocent animal might atone for their souls. (Leviticus 17:11)
God's requirement was not only to emphasize their accountability to Him, but also to the animals, of whom they had charge.
Their sins would bring death either to themselves or to the animals.
And just as they feared for their own lives, they should also fear for the animals' lives; thus, it should restrain them from sinning.
Abel, in his heart, could have said, "Lord forgive me, for I have sinned."
But in this passage there is no mention of "blood" or "sin".
The second possible answer is that Abel was accountable to the Lord, and said in his heart and soul, "everything I have is yours, Lord", because he knew that without the Lord, he had nothing of value.
On the other hand, Cain might have been saying, "See, Lord, what I have produced with my own effort."
In such a case, Cain would have been accountable only to himself, but desired the approval of the Lord and of his family.
Thus he became angry when he didn't receive the praise he desired, which I believe is the true meaning of this passage.
Let's go on.
6. Then the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?
7. "If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it."
It is to his sinful nature that Cain is actually showing accountability, for he obeys it, and he doesn't want to give it up.
Doesn't this sound like some people we know, or have read or heard about?
8. And Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
Abel probably told Cain the truth, and he didn't want to hear it, so he tries to kill the one who has accountability, and who is acceptable before the Lord.
He also probably thought that if God doesn't have Abel to praise, then he would receive that praise.
But that's not the way of God.
9. Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" And he said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?"
Do you hear the lack of accountability in his words?
When we are accountable to our brothers and sisters, we automatically become their protectors, don't we?
Listen to how the Lord answers Cain:
10. And He said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground.
The soul never dies, and the soul is in the blood. (Leviticus 17:11)
11. ‘For the life [soul] of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life [soul] that makes atonement.’
A soul for a soul.
You can kill the body, but not the soul and spirit.
What Cain tried to accomplish by killing his brother has produced exactly the opposite results.
11. "And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand.
12. "When you cultivate the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you; you shall be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth."
13. And Cain said to the Lord, "My punishment is too great to bear!
14. "Behold, Thou hast driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Thy face I shall be hidden, and I shall be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and it will come about that whoever finds me will kill me."
Do you still hear the lack of accountability in Cain's answer?
He shows no remorse for his actions.
He was interested only in himself.
Nevertheless, the Lord still wants Cain to understand the meaning of love and mercy and accountability, for by what He says, the Lord is making others accountable to him.
15. So the Lord said to him, "Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold." And the Lord appointed a sign for Cain, lest anyone finding him should slay him.
In a way, there was already a sign upon him, as there was upon Abel, and that is even upon each of us.
That sign says, "Behold My creation!"
Thus, if we are accountable to God, we will be accountable to His whole creation as well, and strive to love and protect it, which includes every other human, every animal, and the environment in which we all live.
Now look around the world at all the senseless killing and destruction that we human beings bring upon each other.
Is it not really our world society's lack of accountability to God and His creation?
Let's return to Cain, and see what happens next, for he is very much like many people today.
16. Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
17. And Cain had relations with his wife [who was probably his sister (Genesis 5:4)] and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son.
Then the days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years, and he had other sons and daughters.
After destroying part of the beginnings of his parents' society, he begins to develop his own.
18. Now to Enoch was born Irad; and Irad became the father of Mehujael; and Mehujael became the father of Methushael; and Methushael became the father of Lamech.
19. And Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other, Zillah.
20. And Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock.
21. And his brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.
22. As for Zillah, she also gave birth to Tubal-cain, the forger of all implements of bronze and iron; and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.
What is the nature of this society, and to whom are they accountable?
23. And Lamech said to his wives,
"Adah and Zillah,
Listen to my voice,
You wives of Lamech,
Give heed to my speech,
For I have killed a man for wounding me;
And a boy for striking me;
24. If Cain is avenged sevenfold,
Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold."
Do you see the distortion of the truth and of the ways of God?
Because of the evil nature of Cain, and his unaccountability, Lamech likewise is unaccountable, and also misunderstands the Lord's mercy.
In Lamech's distorted method of thinking, he reasoned, “If the Lord showed mercy to Cain for killing his brother, then I should receive even greater protection from God, for I have killed two people.”
Nothing is further from the truth.
But it does tell us something about the nature of the terrorist suicide bombers, who mistakenly believe that God will reward them for their actions.
They are like Cain.
And just as Cain's society all died in the Flood and went to hell, so will these terrorists end up in hell.
But God, in all his mercy, would not let the evilness of some people destroy His original purpose.
25. And Adam had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and named him Seth, for, she said, "God has appointed me another offspring in place of Abel; for Cain killed him."
26. And to Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord.
When we are born again in Jesus Christ, we, too, are given the opportunity to produce a society that is accountable, a society that is accountable to both God and each other, and to the other societies of this world, and to all the animals, for we are all God's creations.
And as accountable members of these societies, we are to protect and nurture the creation in which we all live.
Your Comments are welcome
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