The opposite of courage, part 1 - Cain

Seventh in the COURAGE series

For the next several posts we will look at some of the cowards in the Bible, and some who had a brief lapse into cowardice. By understanding what a thing isn't, we can see better what it is.

The first coward was Cain, the firstborn human. As the eldest son of Adam and Eve he should have set an example for Abel, but parenting had not yet become an art.

When it came time to bring an offering to God, Abel was the exemplary son. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. (Gen 4:4, 5)

At this, Cain's countenance fell, but he was not sad; he was mad! (vs 5).

The Lord explained to him that it was only a matter of bringing an appropriate sacrifice. He would then be in God's "good graces" so to speak, but if he did not, then he was opening a way for the evil one to take control: If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. (Gen 4:7)

"The Lord has no grandchildren" (only children), so he personally explained to Cain that a confrontation was imminent unless he brought an acceptable offering. Satan was taking him apart; Cain must regain "the upper hand." Resist the devil! (Jas 4:7)

Cain talked with Abel, but later in the field, killed him. Then, when asked by God, Where is Abel thy brother?, he denied that he knew. Am I my brother's keeper? (Gen 4:9)

For this murder the Lord's sentenced Cain to hard labor, that is, the earth would not yield a good return for his work, and he would be a fugitive and vagabond on the earth. (Gen 4:12)

Cain whined that the judgment was more than he could endure. I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. (Gen 4:14) No one would like him! He was afraid of enduring in his person what he had done to Abel.

The cowardice of Cain is shown in three ways:

  1. He did not stand against the devil. Though warned that the enemy was at hand, he ignored the message and the Messenger. The heart of a rebel does not want to hear from the Lord, preferring its own ways and choosing the path of least resistance. It takes great bravery to come against the devil!
  2. He would not confess his sin. Considering oneself to be in the wrong requires strength of character. It takes deep humility to repent. We must be bold to break down our own walls of defense against the Lord's exhortations. We all need to pray for help to be humble and repentant.
  3. He would not accept his punishment. We should face the consequences of our sins without railing or complaint. (1 Pet 5:6-11) Have courage and take your lumps.