God’s Strategy for Discipline: Dealing with Cain

The story of God’s dealing with Cain provides great insights on how teachers, parents and school leaders can query students in order to get to the root of the issues. In this story, which appears in Genesis 4, we find God using questions to reveal Cain’s choices and their consequences. Reflecting on this passage will yield valuable insights for school and home discipline!

  1. “In the course of time, Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD” (4:3).

Observation: Cain, first of all, makes a choice to present an offering to God.

  1. 2. “But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock” (4:4).

Observation: Evidently, Cain’s offering was substandard and did not reflect full devotion to the Lord.

  1. “The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor” (4:5).

Observation: There was a consequence to Cain’s choice: God did not look with favor on Cain and his offering.

  1. “So Cain was very angry…” (4:5).

Observation: Cain was angry because God did not accept him (verse 6). Cain, it should be noted, chose to become angry, but this was not his only choice. He could have chosen to be contrite. Cain’s choice to become angry, however, then led to another choice.

  1. “…and his face was downcast” (4:5).

Observation: Is a downcast face, sadness, the result of indulging great anger? Perhaps. Nevertheless, Cain’s sadness appeared in his face.

  1. “Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?” (4:6)

Observation: God’s discipline is through the method of simple questions. In this passage, God asks Cain five different questions before He announces the consequences of Cain’s behavior.

  1. “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 master it” (4:6).

Observation: God asks a third question. Then, seeing evidence of wrong, the Lord intervenes with preventative, corrective discipline. The Lord defines the correct choice of behavior and adds a warning about the dangers of choosing wrongly. God, in other words, is trying to give Cain a picture of reality! He is trying to show Cain how he can be accepted.

  1. “And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him” (4:8).

Observation: Cain ignores God’s preventive discipline and chooses wrongly again.

  1. “Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?” (4:9)

Observation: God confronts Cain with two more questions, not accusations!

  1. “’I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’” (4:9)

Observation: Cain continues to choose wrongly by lying.

  1. 11.   “What have you done?” (4:10)

Observation: God asks a fifth question but notice Cain does not answer it!

  1. “Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground” (4:10).

Observation: Now God supplies evidence of Cain’s wrongdoing…

  1. And then God gives Cain the natural CONSEQUENCES of his choices: “Now you are under a curse…” (4:11).

Observation: Sometimes, when one is completely obstinate, bringing in natural consequences in the form of punishment is all one can do.