Sin is crouching at the door. Jesus has the courtesy to knock.

By Daniel Joseph Petty

The set of verses we’ll be focusing on here come from the story of Cain and Able. Specifically, Genesis 4:1-7. So not even the whole story. But trust me, there’s enough in these few verses to keep you thinking for a good long while… This is one of the most widely known passages from the Bible to Christians and non-Christians alike. And for good reason. Though short in reading, this story seemingly endless in the lessons it has to teach. My focus, however, is not endless, so my writing and thinking on this topic for the moment is going to be centered upon the subject of SIN and the choices we make in our relationship to God. But before we jump into the verses, it would be wise to break a little ground and get us thinking.

When we think of the story of Cain and Able, because as a culture we’re at least vaguely familiar with the story, we typically jump straight to the juiciest, most obviously dramatic scene, the tragic killing of Able by his older brother Cain. So even when we start the story in verse 1, because we already know of the crime, and we know Cain committed the crime, we immediately decide to label Cain as bad and we label Able as good. Cain is the murderer and Able is the good guy who became the victim of jealous rage. Which also probably means (at least for me, and I’m willing to be for you too)  that when we read this we see ourselves as Able. We bring our offering every week with a genuine heart, we serve in our church and are glad to do it,  most of us have never killed anyone… We’re good people and yet bad things happen to us all the time. How could we be like Cain? 

One problem with thinking that way is that is it prevents us from thinking realistically. As in, realistically, we are all sinners. And though most of us have never murdered anyone, we are certainly capable of sin,  and quite capable of brutal ugly sin just like Cain. 

Another problem with thinking that way, perhaps an even bigger problem, is that by thinking this way, by being full of ourselves, we often overlook the profound advice God is giving to Cain about SIN and how destructive it can be. We read right over the instructions God has for Cain because we’ve already decided we are above him, therefore we’re above the instruction God is giving to him about what is to come if he decides not to listen. So now, let’s read these verses from a perspective that will help us relate to Cain.. to understand him better, and hopefully, that will help us understand what God had to say to Cain about the nature of SIN. Maybe it will give us a better understanding of how God wants us to deal with Sin in our own lives. At least this is one thing I pray you may get out of this. 

So here we go, Genesis 4: 1-7 (ESV) 

Now Adam knew Eve, his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Able was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Able also brought the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Able and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

The first thing we learn about Cain here obviously is that he was the firstborn of the family. He was the oldest brother. This means that amongst the two children he was looked at as the leader. He was supposed to be the wisest child of the family. He was supposed to be the most responsible. That is most definitely why He inherited the family business…. He was a farmer, Like his father Adam, whom God appointed to the role of Farmer after the original sin (Gen. 3:17-19). Cain had a lot of responsibility and we really have no reason to believe that up until he gave that lackluster offering that he was not wise or responsible. Of course the poor offering and the murder, the sin indicates there was a serious problem, but that doesn’t mean that earlier in his life that he was not a smart, responsible young man. Our judgment of him, our dwelling on the sin, instead of God’s advice about how to deal with emerging sin, clouds our thinking about Cain and we ignore the idea that he may actually have been a great kid who himself became a victim to sin and it’s evil desires. After all, if he had always been short-tempered and prone to wickedness, would Adam really have allowed him to farm for their family? So what happened…. Well, we don’t really know specifically what happened to Cain, but If he is anything like the rest of us, I think we can come up with a good idea of things that could happen to a regular person that may eventually lead them to a life overcome by sin.

Cain probably just went about with his everyday routines… waking up the same time each morning, had the same regimen of getting ready for the day, went off to work, took a few breaks throughout the day, cut up with some coworkers, went home, killed a little time, ate some dinner, and went to bed only to do it all over again the next day. Sometimes He made time to think about God, how God had taken care of him and his family, and even made time to pray and talk to the LORD, but as he got busy, he got tired… got a little lazy… he stopped making time for God, He stopped putting forth his best effor or offering and just like with the rest of us…. It caught up to him.

In the course of time, Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD.

The Phrase “In the course of time” is interesting to me because it kind of gives you the sense that the practice of making an offering to God was just something everyone did every so often. You make an offering, and then, in the course of time, you come back and make another offering. It’s a religious practice and I think it’s easy to see how something like that can become so casual that perhaps sometimes you forget the significance behind the ritual. You lose sight at the heart behind the practice.  The verse then says that Cain only brought “some” fruits…. It doesn’t say first fruits or best fruits…it says some fruits…indicating that perhaps Cain was bringing an offering just to fulfill the religious practice more for fear of being judged by his peers as opposed to actually sacrificing something significant to YHWH.   

And of Course, in this moment when Cain’s underwhelming offering was brought forth, who was there to witness it?…. Abel…

Overachieving Abel, being the perfect child… bringing the perfect offering… The firstborn of his flock AND their fat portions. Able is just being that best son… probably had straight A’s, had a perfect credit score, his whole life is in order and he’s just awesome…

No. That’s not it either. At least there is no indication of that in what we’re given. It seems that Abel simply, faithfully, honored the LORD. He didn’t do anything extra, he didn’t try and show Cain up, he simply did what he was supposed to do. He came to God with a pure heart, with pure intentions, only to acknowledge his dependence on God and glorify God for always providing.   

“And the LORD had regard for Able and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.

And then what happens?  Cain became angry…. 

Now, why would Cain be angry? After all, he knew he didn’t bring the best of what he had and Abel did, so why is he so surprised that Abel found favor and he didn’t?….Cain knew what he was doing wasn’t right…. 

Have you ever been in a situation where you did something wrong?  And while you were doing it, you knew it was the wrong thing to do? And then you got in trouble or suffered the consequences from those wrong choices… you still got angry that you were in trouble?

It’s like speeding. You’ve seen 3 speed limit signs that say the speed limit is 55 MPH. Yet you’re going 80. You’ve seen the signs, you see your speedometer, you know the law, you know getting a ticket is expensive and can bring on all kinds of problems, yet when you get pulled over and the cop writes you a ticket can’t believe it!!! 

You’re thinking “look officer, I’m just on my way home, it’s been a long day, a long week, I’ve had problems with my boss…”

But the cop still gives you the ticket…because you’re an adult, you know the law and you knew you were breaking it…

You see, we don’t really know why Cain didn’t give his best offering to God. Maybe he had a bad harvest. Maybe there was a special occasion coming up that he wanted to save those first fruits for. Or maybe he waited till the last minute, till the time of the offering and just gathered what he had. We don’t know. The only thing we know is that he didn’t give God his first. He didn’t give God his best. And God, being a fair and just God, could not show him favor for that. 

So Cain becomes angry. But what does God say?

The the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

But, and this is a really important question… How did God say it? 

You see,  because we’ve already read the word angry,  we’re probably reading God’s response as if God is angry.

But the Bible clearly states that Cain was angry… not God.

I believe it may better understood if we read it as if God is responding to Cain’s offering and his underlying issues as a loving father.

God is questioning his son, trying to explain to him the reason He cannot show favor for that kind of offering. God also tries to reassure Cain that he’ll have another chance to make an offering, and most importantly He wants to warn his son about the sin the can come from this unjustified anger.

So let’s read it again.

The the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

God was telling Cain ‘it’s okay!!!  Calm down son… this is not the only chance you will have to make an offering… and If you start doing better… if your heart is in the right place, if your offering is offered to honor and glorify Me, instead of you fulfilling an obligation, I will accept it…. I will favor you..  But if you don’t calm down… if you dwell on this one failure instead of listening to me, instead of taking steps to get better, you could do something even worse… and unfortunately, we know that is what happened. 

Did you notice how quickly God moves on from Cain’s bad offering?  Sure he shows regard for Able and his offering, but God moves right on along, looking past the offering and He wants to focus on what caused Cain to give that bad offering. God’s primary concern was not the outward action but with the sin that was getting ready to ruin Cain’s life and the lives of others. 

All throughout scripture, we see that God always pushed aside outward matters, and looks ultimately at the heart. Yes, even when those outward matters are ugly. 

In 1 Samuel 16:7 we read “But the Lord said to Samuel “Do not look on his appearance or on his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”‘

1 Corinthians 4:5 says that God will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. 

And not only does God look past outward actions that are blatantly wrong,He also looks past outward actions that on the surface look fine but are not being done with the proper heart. 

Isaiah 29:13 is a prophetic word from the Lord through Isaiah that says “these people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based merely on human rules they have been taught.”

To me, this seems like the likely case with Cane in Genesis. You see outwardly, it probably appeared that Cain was following the rules and bringing a proper offering to the LORD. If there had been anyone else around, and their may have been, they wouldn’t have been able to tell whether the fruits Cain brought were the first fruits, the last fruits, or somewhere in between… To everyone else, it probably looked as though Cain was following the rules perfectly. Abel may not have even known… But God knew…

And He also knew that in Cain’s heart, SIN was beginning to become more and more of a problem.

This warning God gives Cain about sin is profound. He paints a very vivid picture of sin when He says “sin is crouching at the door” Crouching?

When was the last time you saw somebody crouching? It’s not a flattering position to take… and there are very few reasons when it makes sense to get into a crouching position. Maybe if you’re changing a tire… if you’ve dropped something on the ground and crouch down to pick it up…  but most of the time it’s unnecessary…. It’s not normal.

Without doing any research, I can really only think of 2 main reasons for crouching at someone’s door.

One is to hide….. If someone knocks on your door and crouches, it’s because they don’t want you to see them.. most likely because their intentions are bad… I mean why else would they knock on your door and then hide other than just to get you outside, and into a vulnerable position?

Which leads to the second reason I can think of to crouch. To get ready to attack. 

You see, SIN has no intention of waiting patiently for you to accept it’s intentions for you. It’s couching, hiding, and ready to attack you when your guard is down!

 Why? Why does sin come so deceptively yet so aggressively? 

In John Chapter 10, verse 10, Jesus tells us that the thief only comes to steal, kill, destroy you….   Those are the only reasons he even comes!

Sin has to come crouching, it has to come hiding because Satan knows that if you could see sin for what it really is, if you fully understood what sin wanted to do to your life, you would reject it immediately! Sin crouches, hides and attacks you because it’s intentions are to steal, kill and ultimately destroy you.

Sin wants to steal your heart, soul, and mind. It wants to kill your heart, soul, and mind, so that it ultimately destroys your heart, soul, and mind. Because after you are completely destroyed by sin, Satan can do his best at making sure you spend your eternity completely cut off from redemption, completely cut off from love, and completely cut off for YHWH. That’s Hell. That is Satan’s goal, and that is the only possible outcome of letting sin control you. The wages of sin is death. 

But how do we stop sinning? Sin comes crouching, and hiding… How are we supposed to see it? How are we supposed to protect ourselves!? 

We can’t… On our own we are completely helpless… we can try and try and try to will ourselves to overcome sin, but it will never work. We may go through little phases where we hold strong to our convictions, but ultimataley without any help, we will inevidable fall short. 

But there is a Man…. A man so powerful, a man so loving, and a man so perfect, who tells us in Revelation 3:20, almost as if it were juxtaposed to the verses that have been our focus,  he says “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.”

In just two sentences, Jesus completely reveals himself to be the exact opposite of sin. He doesn’t come crouching, He comes standing. I imagine that Jesus, being God Himself in the flesh, comes standing tall with perfect posture, straight with His chest out and His shoulders back, vulnerable to your decision to let Him in or not, but confident that he can offer you infinitely more than the crouching one. 

But, what does this verse in Revelation have to do with What God has to say to Cain about in Genesis? Well, first we need to remember, once again, that Jesus is God Himself. The same God that spoke to Cain in Genesis.  Remember, God says to Cain, as a loving father  “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?

The compassion of the LORD in this statement is so consistent with the way Jesus addresses sin all throughout the New Testament. The compassion that is, on one hand, giving proper correction, while on the other hand letting that person know that they, because of His grace and Mercy, are still capable of being accepted by God,  and will be completely forgiven of previous sins.

One particularly good example of Jesus forgiving egregious sins comes from John Chapter 8. A woman has been caught in the act of adultery. This would hardly be considered “giving our best” to God. One of the main points in all of Jesus’ teachings is that your entire life is to be lived as an offering to God. This becomes especially true after Christ offers Himself as the ultimate flesh and blood sacrifice, ultimately fulfilling the practice of offering that type of sacrifice. Anyway, when this woman is brought before everyone and humiliated by the religious leaders and is fearing being stoned to death. Jesus then condemns these men and says “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” They all leave…. and eventually, Jesus ends this uncomfortable scene by asking “Women, where are they? Has no one condemned you? She says “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said “Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more.”

At this moment, Jesus acknowledges the sin of this woman, just as God did with Cain, yet in his infinite grace and mercy, He tells this woman to “go and sin no more”. She now had the opportunity to do well and be accepted, just like Cain.

We must do our best to offer our best to God with the way that we live our lives. We must be willing to allow the compassion of Christ to call out and correct our Sin, and then allow his forgiveness to lead us towards a life that is lived with an ever-growing persistence towards righteousness.

We have a choice. We can ignore God’s correction and go the way of Cain. Or, we can choose to accept God’s correction and grace and allow him to lead to a rich life full of a relationship with the Jesus Christ. Keeping that relationship right and ongoing is no easy task but it is much better than the alternative. 

When you allow Jesus to come into your home,  to come into your heart and your life, He will guide you to righteousness. He will fill your heart to the point where you actually do “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and where you truly do show love and compassion for all others.

And remember, Sin is crouching at your door. Jesus has the courtesy to knock. 

Thank you for reading. May God Bless you!


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What is Trickle Down Compassion?

My brother (Daniel) and I have been blessed. We’ve seldom fought and have truly been best friends for our entire lives. Not only are we friends, we share similar interests and views and work very well together. Now all these things have come together for us to begin Trickle Down Compassion.

As the site reads, Trickle Down Compassion’s goal is to write on any topic, challenging those who call themselves Christians to do their best to care for all humans. Not just some.

Here’s the deal

We both like to write, we enjoy keeping up with current events and we try our very best to be as much like Jesus as possible. That being said, we often form and share perspectives you may find surprising to hear from Christians. We’re not your typical “White Evangelicals”, nor are we stereotypical millennials. We’re unique, just like you. We want to try to use whatever platform we have and may gain to encourage people to open their minds, think past their own perspectives and learn to love each other regardless of our differences. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) And it all trickles down from Him, through us.

Trickle Down Compassion is our way to express our views and open a dialogue to everyone about issues that face all people, even the issues that make people uncomfortable. And when applicable, we hope to use this platform to motivate people to act on their views. Words are great and can certainly inspire or change perspectives, but words don’t get things done. Actions do.

More to come.

– Daniel and Derek