Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ He said, ‘I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’   (Gen. 3:9)

Recently I was asked to work with a manager whose team had just generated a long anonymous memo of complaints to the Human Relations department about his leadership.

In my first meeting with this manager, he said, “You just can’t get good workers these days.  They come.  They go. They have no commitment.”

In our second meeting, he said, “Why don’t these people realize how lucky they are to have a job? I just don’t believe in giving raises because working here is reward enough.”

In our third meeting, he said, “I’m sick and tired of their whining and complaining.  Am I my brother’s or sister’s keeper?”

This final comment convinced me that having any more meetings with this manager would be a waste of time.  He needed to go.  He shouldn’t be entrusted with leadership.  By temperament and attitude, he wasn’t qualified.

When God asks Cain where his brother is, God expects Cain to know because he’s supposed to be Abel’s keeper, protector, and brother.

As the disciples of Jesus, we’re brothers and sisters to each other.  This means that Jesus wants us to be keepers, protectors, supporters, and siblings to each other.

Cain responded to God by asking, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” while knowing he had just killed his brother.  If we use that same phrase to justify our own shabby behavior towards others, we’re an extension of Cain’s crime.

If we’re ever tempted to think or say Cain’s response to God, I encourage us to strike this cavalier and callous response to His call and expectation to take care of each other.

Again, as the disciples of Jesus, we are brothers and sisters to each other, which means that their welfare is our business and that our welfare is theirs.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Have you ever used Cain’s phrase, “Am I my brother’s keeper,” to justify not taking care of others? If so, how did these words make you feel?
  1. God asked Cain “where” his brother was. Do you know where God calls you to support and encourage others?  If so, are you there actually making a difference?  If not, where’s your head and heart to refuse God’s call upon your life?
  1. We undermine our ability to take care of others when we’re bad keepers of ourselves. How well do you take care of yourself?  What would help you to be a better and more faithful keeper of your own mind, body, and soul?

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