Brotherly Kindness

In the Old Testament, the first two brothers that we find are Cain and Abel. Genesis 4:2 reveals that “Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” In other words, Abel was a shepherd, and Cain was a farmer. Both men offered sacrifices to God. Cain offered some fruit of the ground, and Abel offered the firstling of his flock. Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable and pleased God, but Cain’s was unacceptable.

Now, some have said that the reason that one was accepted and the other was not is because it was an animal sacrifice. Others have proposed that it was acceptable because Abel offered the best of what he had and Cain did not. But this is not the point we wish to put forth in our lesson today. We want to notice that Cain became very angry and jealous of his brother. In fact, his anger became so kindled that he killed Abel. The Lord came to Cain (Genesis 4:9) and asked him, “Where is Abel thy brother?” Cain replied, “I know not: am I my brother’s keeper?” Of course, God knew that Cain had actually taken his brother’s life, and so a punishment was placed upon him. He was made a fugitive and a vagabond. A mark was placed upon Cain so that others would not kill him. That’s the story of the first two brothers of the Old Testament. You may read that account in Genesis 4.

The first two brothers of the New Testament are Peter and Andrew. One day, Andrew found Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He then went to find his brother Peter and told him, “We have found the Messiah.” After this Andrew brought Peter to the Lord, and you can read that story in John the first chapter.

What a vast difference we see between these two sets of brothers! In the Old Testament, one brother killed the other. In the New Testament, one brother led the other to the Lord. Our lesson today concerns Brotherly Kindness.

What exactly did Cain accomplish with his action toward Abel? Cain accomplished only that which was of a negative nature. In the first place, he became very angry. It is possible to become angry and still not sin; Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be ye angry, and sin not...” (Eph 4:26) It is never right to be angry when an injury is done to oneself. It is often right to be angry when an injustice is brought upon others. In Mark 11, Jesus entered the temple and observed that those who sold sacrifices and served as moneychangers were there. He realized that they were taking advantage of the people. So, He overthrew their tables and drove them from the temple. His statement was, “It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer: but ye make it a den of robbers” (Matthew 21:13). Jesus became angry, but he did not sin. Selfish anger is always sin, but selfless anger can be positive and morally right.

This was one of Cain’s problems. He was angry for the wrong reason. We need to be extremely careful about our anger. When we are angry, this is the time when it is the easiest to sin. We often say things when angry that we should not and would not normally say.

In Numbers 20, there is a sad story in the life of Moses, the great Law-giver of Israel. The Israelites were in the wilderness and were thirsty. The Lord told Moses to speak to the rock before them and water would come forth. Moses was very angry with the people, and as he stood by the rock, he said something he regretted for the rest of his life. He said in Numbers 20:10, “Hear now, ye rebels; shall we bring you forth water out of this rock?” He then struck the rock, instead of speaking to it, and water came forth. But God was displeased with Moses. In his anger, Moses took the credit for bringing forth the water. Now, normally Moses would not have done this, but his anger caused him to sin. It was for this very incident that Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land.

How many times have people been hurt by angry words? How many friendships have been broken over angry words? How many homes have been divided because one or more decided to use an angry word?

There is a religious song entitled “Angry Words:”

Angry words! O let them never
From the tongue unbridled slip;
May the heart’s best impulse ever
Check them ere they soil the lip.

Love is much too pure and holy,
Friendship is too sacred far,
For a moment’s reckless folly
Thus to desolate and mar.

Angry words are lightly spoken,
Bitt’rest thoughts are rashly stirred,
Brightest links of life are broken
By a single angry word.

Those words are so true. We need to come to the full realization that controlling our temper is an essential ingredient for brotherly kindness.

But we find, next, that Cain was guilty of envy. His brother’s sacrifice was more acceptable, and so Cain envied Abel. Sometimes when certain people see others working for the Lord, they become envious. Instead of lending a helping hand, they criticize. Webster defines envy as “a painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another, joined with a desire to possess that same advantage.” And this seems to have been the feeling that Cain possessed toward Abel. Instead of accepting the fact that he had committed something wrong, he decided to carry his sin a step further. This brings us to the climax of Cain’s sin—murder, the alternative of brotherly kindness. What a shame this man could not find room in his heart for love instead of hate.

The Bible tells us to be kind. Second Peter 1:7 tells us to add brotherly kindness to godliness. Ephesians 4:32 says, “and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you.” In Colossians 3:12, Paul writes: “Put on therefore, as God’s elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering.” Suppose an individual becomes sick and discouraged. Kindness can help bring health and encouragement. Kindness can be seen in our words, but it can be felt in our actions too. A dear little old lady became ill, and when a couple of visiting ladies rose up to leave, they said, “We will be praying for you.” “Just wash up those dishes in the kitchen,” the sick one smilingly replied. “I can do my own praying.” You know, kindness must include some action. Right now, there may be someone sitting in his living room who would be overjoyed at receiving a letter, telephone call, or, better yet, a visit from you. Why not resolve right now to do that little act of kindness. Little acts of kindness are really great big acts of goodness in disguise, and how much they will accomplish! Who knows, who can really tell?

It should be quite obvious that Cain achieved absolutely nothing. But what did Andrew, one of the two brothers of the New Testament that we mentioned earlier, accomplish? He led his brother Peter to Christ. After this, we really don’t hear too much about Andrew, but we hear a lot about Peter. Peter became a great apostle, a great preacher, a great Christian. He preached the first gospel sermon to the Jews on Pentecost. You can road about it in Acts the second chapter. He was also the first to preach to the Gentiles, and you can read about that in Acts 10. Peter wrote two books of the New Testament. One little act of kindness ultimately led to the salvation of literally thousands of people.

I believe that we can easily see the difference between the two sets of brothers. Now, the question is, Would you rather be like Cain, or would you rather be like Andrew? The answer to that is simple and quite obvious. We would rather be like Andrew. Why? Because his act was far more worthy than that of Cain.

Let me ask you another question—would you rather deal with an individual like Cain or Andrew? Again, the answer is easily given. We enjoy being around those whose lives have been characterized by kindness. But it does not always happen in that way. Being kind to others means that I am going to have to forget myself. It means that I will not wait for the needs of others to be pointed out, but that I will look for ways in which I can benefit mankind. If someone is hungry, I will feed him; if someone is thirsty, I will give him something to drink; if someone is naked, I will give him something to wear.

Kindness includes all of these, but brotherly kindness or Christian kindness goes much deeper. It does not merely deal with the physical but with the spiritual as well. I believe that every individual should read carefully the word of God, the Bible. He should read it so that he can learn what the Lord requires of him in order for him to go to heaven. After he has read this and obeyed it, this person is then in a position to supply the greatest kindness shown and known to man. This kindness is bringing others to Christ. Can you think of a greater thing you can do for others than that?

Are you a child of God? Let me urge you to study the Bible with an open mind and an open heart. Our plea is for you to obey God, not a man-originated doctrine. After becoming a Christian, you can then begin to demonstrate a kindness such as Andrew showed Peter many years ago. Who knows what your acts of kindness will accomplish. Maybe you’ll never know, in this life anyway. Eternity alone will tell the story of genuine brotherly kindness.