He tilled the ground, grumbling at the thorns and thistles. His parents said it had not always been like that, and he more or less believed them. But it was odd, just the same. After the tilling came the sowing, and then the watching of the crop, and the dealing with the weeds. (Why had his parents … ? Oh, never mind!) Finally it was time for the harvest, and all the hard work of getting it gathered in. And all the while he watched his brother with resentment. While he was labouring bitterly over his crops, his brother would take out his flock, and sit and rest all day. Sure he watched over them, but really, in this land that still carried vague memories of Eden, it wasn’t that hard. The very weeds that Cain had to battle with were food for Abel’s flocks. It simply wasn’t fair! He had no idea that all the while he was diligently sowing his crops, another kind of seed had taken root in his own soul.
Then the day came to make an offering to the Lord. He knew his brother would willingly have given him from his own flock to make the sacrifice (perhaps in exchange for a small portion from his crops), but he was having none of it. He would not engage in that messy, blood-soaked business (how demeaning!), and he would not be beholden to his spoilt brat of a younger brother either. No, the work of his own hands was quite good enough to offer to the Lord!
So he came, bearing a portion from his crop to make his offering – not too large a portion, for that crop had cost him a lot of effort and he was entitled to the fruit of his labours! His brother came also, bearing the fat portions of some of the first born of his flock. He brought his offering with a kind of gladness that Cain found very offensive. “Obviously it cost him little effort, if he gives it away so easily,” he thought. “Things are always easier for him.”
But then came the shock. The Lord favoured his brother’s offering, but rejected his own. And Cain was furious, and the jealousy in his heart proliferated faster than any seed he had ever sown in the ground. And the Lord warned him that his anger was unjustified and that he was in grave danger of committing a terrible wrong. But he was beyond listening, especially to a god who seemed to favour his brother beyond himself. It was all Abel’s fault! And in the secret places of his heart he cultivated that bitter crop, jealousy, anger, resentment, and it came swiftly to fruition.
The day came when he asked his brother to walk with him in the fields. Abel was eager to take this opportunity to sort things out with his brother. But Cain had other ideas, and out there, with no human witness, he killed his brother. He did not know that the very ground bore witness against the murder of the innocent, and that he would be eating from a bitter crop all the days of his life.