“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”
God spoke these words to Cain after He saw that Cain was visibly angry over God’s rejection of his offering (Genesis 4:5). Instead of responding to God’s displeasure with a repentant attitude and a desire to change, Cain responded with jealous anger and bitterness towards his brother. God, who knows the heart, could discern that Cain’s anger was rising to the point of danger.
So God spoke to Cain with encouragement and warning:
- “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” While God had rejected Cain’s offering because of the attitude behind it, He still offered Cain this word of encouragement that Cain could change. He could still repent and “do well” and “be accepted.” This is what God wanted Cain to do. God’s will is always that people should repent (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). Had Cain reacted properly to God’s rejection, his anger would have given way to “godly sorrow [that] produces repentance leading to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
- “And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.” God warned Cain that he was inching dangerously close to sin—transgressing God’s law. Sin begins with what is in our attitude and mind. At this point, unless he stopped himself, repented and committed to change, Cain’s attitude and mind were going the direction of hatred toward his brother, which is the root of murder (Matthew 5:21-22). Study James 1:14-15 closely to learn about the process of how thoughts can precipitate sin.
- “And its desire is for you, but you shall rule over it.” God’s final words of warning to Cain are that if he continued down the road to sin, sin would eventually rule over him. Sin would become his master and he would become its slave.
Jesus taught that “whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). Sin is likened to slavery because it entraps us in negative behavior that destroys our life (physically and spiritually), often leads to other sins, becomes an addiction that is extremely difficult for human beings to control, and places us under the oppressive control of Satan.
To learn more about sin as slavery, study the following scriptures: Proverbs 5:22; Romans 6:6, 12, 16, 19-20; Ephesians 2:2.
Next week we will see how Cain failed to respond to God’s warning. But the good news is that we can take God’s warning to heart and use it to stop the destructive progression of sin in our lives!
To learn more about how to stop the progression of sin in your life, read “Effects of Sin.”