Cain was a farmer; Adam and Eve’s firstborn son.
And Abel was a shepherd. He was son number two.
One day the brothers decided to bring God an offering, a gift.
Cain brought some of the things he had grown – fruit and veg and grain – while Abel brought some of his very best lambs.
God’s response to the two offerings was very different. He liked the offering Abel had brought. But he didn’t like Cain’s, and he told him so.
Now, Cain could have simply accepted that, but he didn’t. He was hurt and he was angry. And in his frowning, downcast face it showed. “Why are you angry?” God asked. “And why the long face?”
And then God said something really important; something that could have made all the difference in the world to Cain and his brother.
“You have a choice here,” God explained. “You can choose to respond to this in a good way. Or you can make a bad choice and let this eat you up. That choice is like a wild animal that crouches at your door, waiting to devour you. You need to control it, so that it does not destroy you.”
You see, God knew that Cain’s anger had made him jealous of his brother. And he knew that jealousy could lead to resentment, and then to something much worse.
So he warned Cain. He did everything he could to help him.
But sadly, Cain did not listen. He let that anger and that jealousy and that resentment eat him up from the inside, until one day it came exploding out of him in the worst possible way.
He asked his brother Abel to go out into the fields with him. And while they were there alone, Cain killed his brother.
No one saw, or so he thought. But later that day God spoke to Cain again.
“Where is your brother?” God asked.
“Dunno,” Cain shrugged. “Am I supposed to be keeping an eye on him or something?”
“What have you done?” God replied. “His blood is like a voice, crying out to me from the ground where his broken body lies.
And so the ground will no longer be your friend, Cain. Nothing you plant will grow. And instead of being settled in this place, surrounded by fertile fields, you will have to wander across the earth.”
“No!” cried Cain. “Please, no! Cut off from the ground? Cut off from you? This punishment is too much for me to bear! Anyone who finds me will kill me!”
“No, they won’t,” God said. “I will put a mark on you, so that everyone knows not to touch you.”
And with that Cain went away. Away from the land he loved, and away from God as well. Off to the land of Nod.