Throughout the Scriptures God asks questions for which he knows the answers. He uses these questions to move the listener towards change. As a friend of mine once shared,
A question stirs the conscience, but an accusation hardens the will (Ken Collier)
For Cain, as well as for us, the point is this: inherent in the why question is that Cain had a choice. God was stirring Cain’s conscience when he asked why he chose to respond with anger instead of obedience.
In our English language this is captured in the word responsible; a word we often use without considering its meaning.We are response able – able to choose the right response. I recognize that it often doesn’t feel this way. Self-pity and the ensuing emotions consume our thoughts and feelings; so much so that we believe them to be our only option. God wishes to challenge our thinking and so he asks, “Why did you choose to respond in the way that you did?”
Cain chose to feel sorry for himself; so do we. He was not the victim of his emotions or circumstances. Self-pity, while an enslaving habit, remains a choice. Paul confirms this in the book of Romans: “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.” (Romans 6:16, NLT)
God’s question for Cain reveals this liberating truth: when you are embroiled in self-pity you don’t have to be. You choose to be.
Available November 2012 through www.biblicalstrategies.com.