The phrase ‘Brother’s Keeper’ comes from Genesis 4:9. After Cain murders Abel, God questions him about his brother, “And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not; Am I my brother’s keeper? (KJV). In verse 10 the Lord response is, “What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.”
Cain’s response here, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” has become one of the most famous lines in the Bible. It is often quoted to imply, that unlike Cain, we are supposed to be our brother’s keeper.
In the arrogance of Cain’s answer he reduces the relationship of brother-to-brother to that of brother to “keeper.” Sheep are kept, children are watched; men are not. That is the interpretation Cain appears to reach.
Now, the Lord does not answer that Cain is his brother’s “keeper.” He ignores the reply completely. He tells Cain that his brother’s blood cries out to Him from the ground. He never wanted Cain to be his brother’s keeper. He wanted Cain to be his brother’s brother.
A brother is much more then a “keeper;” and a much different thing also. If I am to be my brother’s brother, I care what harm may come to him, and I believe I should expect from him the same act and feeling. I am my brother’s brother!
It is true that Cain’s attitude in his answer to God was not good, and ours may be equally as bad as Cain’s was. However, a closer examination of this conversation, has led me to this conclusion of interpretation.
What if God had answered Cain’s question on the “keeper” issue this way: “No, you are not your brother’s keeper, but what does that sarcastic and evasive answer have to do with the question I have asked you?”
I sincerely believe that, as Christians, we have mutual responsibilities. These responsibilities include caring for one another in both our attitudes and actions. In the passages, as I interpret them, of Galatians 6:2, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
I believe, God expects that we be our “brother’s (and sister’s) keeper.” Let us take this further to say, in God’s eyes we are all responsible for the collective well being of others. If a murderer like Cain suggests that he has no responsibility for his fellow man; then the concept of an “only me” belief and not caring for the health and welfare of others must be unbiblical.
‘There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers’ Proverbs 6: 16-19 NIV.
Being your Brother’s Keeper, is recognizing the true needs of others. You may not always be able to change entire situations in another person’s life, but if an act of kindness is afforded to someone is performed for them, you are doing what God wants and requires us to do as Christians.
In these severe economic and social times of today, we must recognize the despair and uselessness some must feel in their everyday lives. If the opportunity comes your way to give someone encouragement, small monetary help or just tell them that you love them, you are giving them something they can pass on to another soul that needs the same.
When you do these things you are contributing to what the Lord intends for you to do in being “Your Brother’s Keeper.”
September 2, 2012 //
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