The Upward Look, by Jon Forrest
Sibling Rivalry and You
Do you remember the musical comedy team known as The Smothers Brothers? They were very popular in the decades of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. The two brothers, Tommy (the comic) and Dick (the straight man) sang humorous songs, but mostly, they could get a routine out of one song. The reason being that the song would go about one phrase in, and Tommy would interrupt with some kind of line, usually a funny question. A large part of the act would be silly arguments between the two. The argument would usually build up to Tommy saying, “Mom always liked you best!” Then a whole new argument broke loose between the brothers that would bring down the house with laughter. Do you know why the arguments were so funny? I believe it is because the sides of the argument sounded so familiar to their audience.
I have three brothers and we often kid each other about who was the favorite. It’s a lot of fun, but sibling rivalries can be anything, but funny, when they get too personal and hostile. Often times siblings harbor and store up un-expressed feelings of anger and pain that have become deep-seeded over the years turning into a powerful grudge.
The Bible is filled with sibling rivalries that sometimes turned the course of history. Jacob and Esau held a powerful rivalry filled with resentment and greed. Their struggle for control of the family fortune via the blessing of their father resulted in a complete shift in the lineage of the nation of Israel.
Joseph and his brothers were at odds because of favoritism from their father, Jacob. The spoiled little brother infuriated his brothers so much that they sold him as a slave and created a ruse to make their father believe his favorite son had been killed by a wild beast.
David’s brothers were unhappy with him because, even though he was the youngest, he was anointed King. When he asked questions about why the grownup soldiers (which included his older brothers) did not have the faith to stand up against the giant, his older brother, Eliab, skewered him with criticism and told him to go back to his sheep.
The brothers of Jesus did not appreciate the favor he had received from their parents and from God. Nor did they appreciate the popularity he had gained from the crowds.
Probably the most well-known rivalry between siblings in the Bible was the first one.
Genesis 4 tells about the struggle for God’s favor between Cain and Abel. Genesis just mentions that Cain was the oldest of the two and that he was a farmer, raising vegetables and Abel was a shepherd. Each offered a sacrifice from his bounty. However, God only blessed and accepted the sacrifice of Abel while rejecting the one of Cain. The text does not give us the instructions God had given to the brothers concerning their offering, but we must understand that God knew the hearts of the two. As a result, Cain became furious.
Genesis 4:6-7 reads, “Then 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.”
We all know that sin had its way with Cain, and he set a trap and ambushed his brother in the field, murdering him. This was the first time, but certainly not the last that one sibling’s hatred of another resulted this way. Over the years we have all witnessed bitter feuds between siblings over inheritance, the affection of their parents, one becoming wealthy while the other became poor, big differences in popularity, the large chasm between talent and skill and many other differences.
Parents want their children to get along and even love each other. God wants us all to love one-another. Yet our fleshly tendencies go toward envy, jealousy, anger and all sorts of evil. If you are having issues with your sibling (s), realize that you can connect with them if you will put God first. But if you hang on to bitterness, “sin is crouching at the door.” Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7.
This Sunday I will begin to share a two-part series of messages from Genesis 4 about Cain and Able titled “Crouching at Your Door.” This week it will be Acceptable Sacrifice based on Genesis 4:1-7. You might also want to examine Romans 12:1-2, I hope you will join the FCC family as we examine this important issue.
One of God’s favorites (and so are you),