In Genesis chapter four, we are told that Cain and Abel both brought a sacrifice to God. But apparently, Cain did not bring God the best that he had to offer:
“The Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.”
No one likes to fail, especially when we know we have disappointed God. But God gives Cain an opportunity to make things right. Instead of getting mad about the situation, he can decide to do well in the future rather than continuing to be selfish.
“Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 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.’”
One thing that really stands out from God’s words to Cain is the emphasis on the fact that Cain has a choice. He can do well and be accepted, or he can be overtaken by sin, but he has a choice in this matter. He has no reason to be angry precisely because he is the one who has chosen to sin in the first place, and he is the one who can choose to pursue a different course in the future.
Many in our day would not have written Genesis this way. Instead, they might have written, “If I cause you to do well, will not you countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, and it will destroy you unless I arbitrarily choose to cause you to beat it.”
This is because many in our world deny the concept that human beings have any say in their own actions. On one hand, they teach, we are forced to do wrong by an inherently wicked human nature. On the other hand, God may override this nature and force us to do well, but we have no choice in this matter, either.
Ironically, this teaching is in many ways very similar to the doctrine of contemporary atheistic materialists. These men teach that human beings are simply a product of our genetics and our physical environments. If we do right, we had no choice in the matter. If we do wrong, we had no choice in the matter. Free will is an illusion and we are all just “dancing to our DNA.”
But Genesis paints a different picture. “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.”
Notice, God does not say “you must master sin with no help from me.” He does not even say “you must muster some strength of your own and I will help you with the rest.” God does not tell Cain that he has to beat sin by a power that originates in his own human self. But He does suggest that Cain has a choice in the matter. That choice is the choice to turn it all over to God. To put Him in the highest place. To count any cost as worth it in order to be His.
Will you make the decision to submit yourself to God? If you know what He asks of you, will you do it? The choice is yours. Which means the responsibility is yours. If you do not choose well, you will not have a good excuse to become angry.