The Sin of Self Pity: Cain’s Fallen Face
“So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.”
Why has your face fallen? Throughout this study we’ll be taking a look at Cain’s self pity. In Genesis chapter four, Adam and Eve conceive two children, Cain and Abel (Gen. 4:1-2). Cain is the seed of Satan, (Gen. 3:15) and Abel is the seed of the elect. Genesis tells us that in the course of time the two brothers brought forth offerings to the Lord, Cain’s coming from the fruit of the ground, and Abel’s from the firstborn of his flock. The Lord had regard for Abel’s offerings, but He also rejected Cain’s. I know I may sound like a monotone Bible reader, but bear with me…
After this, the Word (Gen. 4:5) says that Cain became very angry, and his face fell at the news that his sacrifice had been rejected. The Hebrew word “fell” indicates that Cain’s state of pity was one of “a fall” or he had, in a strange way, “died.” (Lit. Die) The Hebrew definition of fall also indicates that Cain’s outward appearance (long face) portrayed his inward spiritual condition as “lost, lying and overwhelmed.” Cain had been rejected by the Lord, and all though his face was long, and he seemed saddened by his failure, he was indeed lost in anger, lying in pity, and overwhelmed by the sin that was crouching at his door. Simply put, Cain’s fallen face had exposed his fallen heart, and the Lord refused to separate the two.
The Lord responded to Cain’s fall by asking him, “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 Lord chose to handle Cain’s pity by calling out his anger along with his physical appearance. He did this because it would show Cain the two conditions couldn’t be separated. The anger Cain inwardly harbored produced the pity he outwardly possessed, and the pity he outwardly possessed attempted to hide the anger he inwardly harbored. Therefore, Cain’s hatred towards God was being exposed through his anger, and Cain’s pity was a deceitful maneuver to remove the guilt of his sin. This futile attempt to manipulate God would prove foolish because the Lord knew Cain’s heart. God knew that Cain would never be humbled through repentance; and that no matter what word was spoken Cain would always justify his hatred through his pity.
Genesis 4:8 tells us that Cain spoke to his brother Abel before he murdered him. I’m not exactly sure what it was that Cain spoke with Abel about, but I can take a stab at it due to my perspective on how self pity operates. Cain probably coerced Abel to come out to the field by manipulating him with the same self pity He had tried to put off on God. If this is the case, it’s likely that most of their conversation was dominated by Cain’s attempts to get Abel to buy in to his pity, because if he could get righteous Abel to buy in, then Cain could be justified in his sin, and God would be the one who was guilty of injustice . (At least, in earthly terms) Maybe Abel, following in God’s footsteps, rejected Cain’s pity, and also encouraged him to do well and repent, driving Cain to utter madness. Whatever the case, it seems apparent that the same anger Cain had displayed towards God after his rejected offering was now directed at Abel. The tragic result was that Cain, with the rage of Satan himself, slain his brother without remorse.
Immediately, God delivered judgment on Cain by asking him, “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain’s responded arrogantly by saying, “I do not know; am I my brother keeper?” (Gen. 4:9) The Lord ignored Cain’s prideful response and cursed him without hesitation. He told Cain he would be cursed from the ground, and that he would be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth. Once again Cain responded with self pity by blaming God for his judgment, stating that it was too harsh of a punishment for him to handle. He told God, “Behold, you have driven me today away….. (Gen. 4:14) Cain was doing what self pity always does, taking the guilt of sin off of him, while simultaneously throwing it on God. (We cannot be fooled by our pity, it may look humble, or even feel humble, but its fraud can found in its lack of desire for true deliverance or joy.)
What was the result of Cain’s new pity party? To be blunt, God hated Cain’s self pity. The Lord didn’t caudle Cain in his sin; rather He stuck to the law, and refused to be manipulated by Cain’s deceit. Cain would be damned for his hatred, and wouldn’t be excused from it because he put on a show of pity. This is a strong example of how self pity will never justify us from the guilt of sin. We may wear a long face for those around us to see, but in the courts of judgment our pity will only bring condemnation, no matter how believable we may present our cases. These thoughts are important for someone in pity because if we do not personally take on our original guilt we will be like Cain, and our punishment will always be greater than we can bear. Cain’s sin was always excused through pity; therefore he never needed a Savior. He simply felt to sorry for himself to ever need salvation. The tragic result of this climaxed in Genesis 4:16 when “Cain went away from the presence of the Lord…”
What do I do?: Cain constantly responded to God’s Word with anger and pity so as believers we shouldn’t follow suit. Instead, we should give it our best to “rule over” this sin in everyday life. We can do this by using the means of grace that the Lord has made available to us. (Praying, reading the Word and staying around God’s people) Personally, I find it helpful to chew on stories like Cain’s because it corrects my perspective as to how God views this sin when I’m in the midst of it. Cain was full of hatred, but instead of turning to God for forgiveness, He rebelled by sulking in self pity. Therefore, we shouldn’t be like Cain and pity ourselves because we’re accused of having sin. We should humble ourselves and acknowledge it’s our personal guilt of sin that’s in need of forgiveness. We should be of the mind that we are the offenders and not the offended. This thinking is critical in the fight against self pity due to its strong tendency to deceive us into believing we’re not responsible for our sin, because if we’re always justified in our actions, we’re always justified in our sin, and if were always justified in our sin, we’ll never see our need to be justified by the blood of Christ.