There always seems to be a high profile murder case in the news: O.J Simpson, Scott Peterson, Robert Blake. The news media fan the flames, believing in the old axiom, 'If it bleeds, it leads.'
Family murder adds to the intrigue. The BJS Special Report, a survey of murder cases in the courts of large urban U.S. counties, found that 16 percent of murder victims were members of the defendant's family: 6.5 percent were killed by their spouses, 3.5 percent by their parents, 1.9 percent by their own children, 1.5 percent by their siblings, and 2.6 percent by other relatives.
Family murder is nothing new. In fact, the very first murder case involved two brothers: Cain and Abel. Let's visit the scene.
Cain wilted under God's intense cross-examination (Genesis 4:9). He was charged with murder and no time had been wasted in getting the accused into court (cf. Ecclesiastes 8:11). The defense decided to plead innocence on the grounds of ignorance. When questioned as to the whereabouts of the victim, he answered, 'I know not.'
God was not a newcomer to the courtroom. He had already brought Adam and Eve to trial for violation of divine law (cf. Genesis 3:8-13).1 God did not ask, 'Where is Abel thy brother?' for information, but for amplification. He knew-He only asked to remind Cain of where Abel was.
Evasion and perjury. Adam and Eve were evasive but humble. Cain was hardened and cynical. He boldly lied to God. To the question about Abel's whereabouts, he replied, 'I know not.' He did know for he had just killed him. He then hurled a rhetorical question at God: 'Am I my brother's keeper?'. This question literally implies, 'Am I supposed to watch him all the time?'
Cain sought to dodge responsibility, but God held him accountable. Cain's action was a renunciation of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. This account was later used for an example of a lack of natural brotherly love (1 John 3:11-12). Note that 'brother' is used seven times in this passage. It is bad enough to kill a complete stranger but far worse to kill one's own brother.
We are our brothers' keepers, too (cf. John 3:16; 1 John 3:16), and God holds us responsible for how we treat them (cf. Luke 10:29-37). Sin always finds us out, even though we, like Cain, may try to hide it (Numbers 23:32). We cannot injure another without God noticing. Jesus asked Saul of Tarsus, 'Why persecutest thou me?' when Saul had never even met Jesus-he had persecuted Jesus by hurting the Lord's followers. Paul said, 'Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ' (Galatians 6:2). Inasmuch as God is the Father of us all, it naturally follows that we are all brothers (Isaiah 64:8; Malachi 2:10; Acts 17:26; Ephesians 4:6).
When one comes to understand and believe that he is a part of the brotherhood of man, he is obligated to certain activities:
Motive. Evidently, Cain's actions were motivated by envy, which is a 'rottenness of the bones' (Proverbs 14:30). You could say, then, that Cain had a 'bone disease!' Envy is rooted in selfishness. A loving person cannot be a selfish person (1 Corinthians 10:24; Philippians 2:4; cf. Matthew 16:24). 'As frost to the bud, and blight to the blossom, even is self-interest to friendship; for confidence cannot dwell where selfishness is porter at the gate.'2 Christians are warned not to allow the bone disease to invade their spiritual body because it soon develops into a heart problem (Galatians 5:21; Romans 13:13; 1 Peter 2:13). 'Envy' is defined as 'an evil affection of the heart which makes men grieve and fret at the good and prosperity of others.'4 It comes from a word that means 'to look against, to eye with evil intent.'5 Envy is worse than wrath and anger (Proverbs 27:4); it is unnatural and inhuman (James 3:14-15).
Modus Operandi. How does one go from man to murderer? What steps lead one down that path? Envy is the mother of many sins, especially hatred and murder. Its tools are whisperings, back-bitings, and lies (2 Corinthians 12:20; 1 Timothy 6:4-5). It leads to family strife (Genesis 30:1), land disputes (Genesis 26:14), mistreating others (Genesis 37:11; Acts 7:9), national rebellion (Numbers 16:1-3; Psalm 106:16), and persecution of Christians (Acts 5:176).
Envy led Cain, Saul, and the Jews to murder. Remember Saul could not bear the maidens' praise of David (1 Samuel 18:7-8). His jealousy festered into an open sore, and the king chased the boy around in a ridiculous attempt to kill his own servant. Later, at Saul's death, a discerning person realizes it was not the Philistines who got the king. It really was not even his own sword that thrust him through (though that was the instrument). Envy killed Saul. Remember Calvary! Dark against the sky stood that cruel cross. Above the sin and strife rang out an anguished, lonely cry. Jesus, too, died a victim of envy and jealousy (Matthew 27:18). Annas and Caiaphas, the Pharisees and Scribes, begrudging His success, murdered Him out of envy.
Verdict and sentencing. God, the Prosecutor, summed up His air-tight case, and God, the Judge, passed sentence. Guilty! The fruits of envy are always misery and woe, death and destruction (Esther 5:10-14; Esther 7:10; Daniel 6:1-24). The citizens of Thasos once erected a statue to Theagenes, a renowed athlete in the Greek games. One of his rivals became so envious that he went every night and with repeated blows tried to break the statue down. He finally succeeded, only to be crushed by the statue as it fell from its pedestal. So envy does to all who harbor it in their bosom.
Pull up the weeds of envy from your soul. The harvest is bitter.
The first murder trial didn't last as long as O.J. Simpson's, Scott Peterson's, or Robert Blake's, but we're still talking about it six thousand years later.
1 The first two human questions in the Bible had to do with sin. The first came after man's struggle with Satan, the second after man's struggle with man.
3 'Lay aside' here literally means 'to discard clothing.'
5 Cf. 1 Samuel 18:8-9, 'eyed,' avan, 'to watch with jealousy;' cf. Mark 7:21-22, 'an evil eye,' ophthalmos, figuratively 'envy from the jealous side-glance' (Strong).
6 'indignation' means 'envy, jealousy;' cf. 13:45; 17:5.