Grades 3-6 Sunday School Lesson
Through the Bible
Lesson 3: Cain and Abel
Author’s Notes: Last week we learned about the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, and how their fall into sin affected the rest of the human race. This week, we’re going to see that same sin nature causing even more pain, as it affects their children, Cain and Abel. We’ll see some terrible consequences of pride, and jealousy, and anger. And also learn that hatred in our hearts is the same as murder, in the eyes of God. But we’ll also be reminded of last week’s good news…that God has a plan, and is always ready to forgive when we confess those bad feelings to Him.
Let’s begin today’s lesson by using our imaginations. Imagine, with me, that you have a dog who just had puppies. They’re the cutest, fluffiest, most fun puppies in the world. And they’re all healthy and beautiful. Your mom and dad have told you that if you take good care of the puppies, making sure they stay healthy and well fed, you can be in charge of selling the puppies, when they’re old enough. And you get to keep whatever money you get for them.
Then, you learn that there’s going to be a big party for your pastor. And everyone has been asked to bring him a special gift. The only problem is everyone is supposed to bring him some meat for his freezer, to help feed his family through the next year. You want to bring him a gift, too. But you don’t have any meat to bring. And you don’t have money to buy any, either. What you do have is puppies!
It would be a great sacrifice to give Pastor one of your puppies, since you could make quite a bit of money selling it. But Pastor would surely think a puppy would be an extra special gift, coming from you. So you decide that instead of bringing meat for Pastor’s freezer, like they requested, you’re going to give him a puppy.
Do you think there is any way, instead, you could get the money to buy meat to bring to the party? What if you sold one of the puppies, and used the money to buy meat? That would work. But to you, it just doesn’t seem like as special a gift as one of your own puppies. So you decide that’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to give Pastor a puppy at his party.
You take your time choosing which puppy to give Pastor. You even tie a big bow around his neck to make him look extra cute. And you smile to yourself thinking just how special you’re going to feel, giving Pastor one of your own puppies, instead of just giving him a boring piece of meat, like everyone else is.
So you arrive at the party, and wait patiently in line as each person presents Pastor with their gift. Just as you expected, it’s quite a boring time as everyone is giving Pastor the very same thing. But you do notice that his face looks like it’s shining. He seems really happy to be getting the gifts, thanking each person like it’s the best thing he’s ever been given.
When it’s your turn, you’re very excited for him to see the extra special gift you’ve picked out for him. Won’t he be pleased to know you’ve brought him a puppy from your very own litter?
But what a disappointment! Pastor is no longer smiling like he did with the other gifts. In fact, he seems to be upset, as he tells you that he’s very allergic to dogs and can’t possibly keep the puppy.
How do you think you might feel at that moment? (Have your students share what they might be feeling. Then share these possible responses.)
So now what should you do? Pastor would like to have meat. But all you have is a puppy. What could you do? (Again, have the children share their thoughts. Then share these possible options with them.)
Which do you think is the best choice? Is it good to stay angry at someone? What happens inside us when we stay angry? (allow the students to answer)
Have any of those things ever happened to you? Have you ever been mean to someone, maybe someone in your own family, because you were angry with someone else? That happened to someone in the Bible. And in our lesson today, we’re going to see that anger like that can cause us to do terrible things. We’ll look at who that person was in just a moment.
But first, we’re going to learn this week’s memory verse. It’s a reminder of how seriously God looks at an angry, hateful heart, like the one we’re going to learn about, today.
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer:” 1 John 3:15a
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for Your Word, The Bible, where we can learn new truths about You, and Your plans and new beginnings for us. Help each one of us here, today, to be attentive to what You would have us learn. Give us open ears and hearts, ready to listen to Your words. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: The Fall (Genesis 2-3)
Our memory verse for this week has a very serious message. God does not look the other way when it comes to things like anger and hatred. He takes them very seriously. Have you ever thought about killing someone? I certainly hope not! But what does our verse say about hating someone? In God’s eyes, it’s the same as killing them! Did you know God looks at hatred that way?
The same is true for anger. Listen to what Jesus had to say: “Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment:” (Matthew 5:21-22) Anger and hatred are dangerous feelings. When they take hold of someone’s heart, the results can be beyond what we might imagine.
In today’s lesson, we’re going to meet someone who actually became so jealous, and angry, and hateful that he did the unimaginable…he killed someone. And the person he killed wasn’t even the one he was most angry at. Let’s go back to the book of Genesis, where we left off last week, and find out who could have done such a thing. You might be surprised to hear whose family he belonged to.
You may remember a couple of weeks ago that we learned about Creation, and how everything God had made was good. And that included the very first people. Do you remember their names? God made Adam and Eve without sin. But what happened when Satan came along, and told Eve that God hadn’t been telling her the truth? She chose to believe Satan, and disobeyed God. Then, she convinced Adam to do the same thing.
Adam and Eve realized right away that they had done something very wrong. And that it had hurt their relationship with God. So they were sorry for their sin, and confessed what they had done to God. And He forgave them.
But Adam and Eve still had to live with the consequences of their sin. Because of their sin, Adam and Eve had to leave the Garden of Eden. And from that time on, every baby would be born with a sin nature that was passed down to them by their father. Only Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross could ever pay the penalty for that sin.
Well, it didn’t take long for Adam and Eve to see that sin nature passed down to their family. God had told them to have children so there would be more people to fill up the earth. And that’s just what they did. They started out with two boys, Cain and Abel. Let’s look at Genesis 4 and learn more about these first two sons of Adam and Eve.
1 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord.
2 And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.
4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
Which brother was the oldest? Cain. And what did he do for a living? He was a farmer. And what was the younger brother’s name? Abel. And what was his job? He was a shepherd. Both Cain and Abel had very important jobs that helped provide what was needed for the family. Cain grew the food they ate. And Abel raised and took care of the sheep that provided wool for their clothing.
Both men were probably very proud of their jobs. And there’s nothing wrong with taking pride in your work, as long as the praise and glory for what is accomplished ultimately goes to God. Why should God get the praise for the hard work and the good things we do? Where do our talents and abilities come from? They come from God. Without God, we wouldn’t have the ability to do anything. And how do we stay healthy enough to get things done? God is the one who keeps us healthy. Yes, it’s important for us to work hard and do our best. And it’s okay for us to take pride in what we get done, as long as we acknowledge that it’s all because of what God does through us.
But sometimes we forget about God’s part. And we let that pride fill us up in a bad way, where we find ourselves thinking we’re more important, or what we do is more important than someone else. We’re about to see big brother Cain fall into that very trap.
What offering did Cain bring to the Lord? He brought some of the things he had grown from the ground. And what offering did Abel bring? He brought sheep for his offering. How did God feel about Abel’s offering? The last verse we read says, “the Lord had respect” for it. That means He accepted Abel’s offering as true worship.
But what about Cain’s offering? How did God feel about that? Let’s find out.
5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
The word “wroth” means full of wrath or extreme anger, sometimes to the point of violence. Have you ever seen someone so angry that you were afraid they might hurt someone? That’s how angry Cain was.
And what had made him so angry? God did not respect his offering. He would not accept it. At first we might want to feel sorry for Cain. After all, he did bring an offering to the Lord. And it seems like Cain just wanted to give the Lord something special, from his own hands; like our example earlier of bringing the puppy instead of some meat. But do you remember from our story earlier that there was a reason for why meat had been the requested gift for the pastor, and why the puppy was not a good substitute?
That was true for Cain, too. It wasn’t that God didn’t think Cain’s job was important. In fact, it was God who had given man the job of taking care of the land. God was probably glad that Cain was proud of his work. But Cain’s pride went too far. God wanted an animal sacrifice (which is what Abel brought), because the shedding of an animal’s blood was a picture, for them, of what Jesus would one day do on the cross to pay for their sins. Hebrews 9:22 says, “…without shedding of blood is no remission.” And Leviticus 17:11 says, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” Atonement is payment for sin. And in both of these verses, God wanted to make it very clear that sin could not be paid for and forgiven without a blood sacrifice.
Aren’t you glad that Jesus paid that price for us on the cross?! He took care of that debt once and for all, so we no longer have to. But before Jesus came to earth, God demanded animal sacrifices as a reminder to people of how serious their sin was, and how it required sinless blood for them to be forgiven.
And it doesn’t sound like Cain could have just been confused about what God wanted for a sacrifice. Listen to what God said to him.
6 And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
God told Cain that it was his choice whether or not he would do the right thing. That means Cain knew exactly what he was supposed to do, and had chosen to do things his own way, instead. And that was a very dangerous choice to make.
Jesus said, in Matthew 26:28, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” And you may remember a verse we mentioned last week, John 14:6, where Jesus said, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” God had made one way, and only one way for us to have our sins forgiven so we could worship Him. That one way was the shedding of Jesus’ blood.
By bringing a sacrifice other than an animal’s shed blood, Cain was trying to come to God another way; his own way. He wanted the work of his own hands to be a good enough offering for God to accept. But God clearly rejected it. However, God was still willing to forgive Cain for his prideful action. All Cain had to do was bring another offering. The right offering.
Cain had two choices: he could either ask God to forgive his sin, and come back to Him with an acceptable offering. Or, he could turn away from God, letting his pride and anger take over his heart. Which do you think he chose?
Sadly, we never see Cain come back to God with another offering. Instead, the next conversation recorded is with his brother, Abel. What had Abel brought to God for an offering? A lamb. And how had God responded to Abel’s sacrifice? God had accepted Abel’s sacrifice. How do you think that made Cain feel? Remember, he was already very angry at God. On top of that, Cain was also probably very jealous of his younger brother, since God had been pleased with him.
Jealousy and anger are sins that can tear us up on the inside, and cause us to do terrible things. As Cain’s anger got deeper and deeper, he went looking for someone to strike out against. He couldn’t very well do anything to God. But there was someone else he could pour all that anger out on, instead.
Sometimes when we’re angry, we let that anger come out at others. And when the person we’re angry at isn’t around, that anger may come out at someone who’s not even responsible for how we’re feeling. Have you ever had someone yell at you or be mean to you for no reason? Chances are, that person was already angry at someone else; and you just happened to be the easiest person for them to let that anger out on.
And that’s what happened between Cain and Abel. Cain was very angry with God. And all that anger was looking for a way out, just as younger brother Abel came along.
8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
As Cain and Abel were talking, all that jealousy, all that anger against God inside of Cain bubbled right up to the surface and came out. The Bible doesn’t tell us what they said. But maybe Cain tried to blame Abel for the way God had treated him. Regardless of what was said between them, Abel did not deserve what came next from Cain.
How did Cain take his anger out on his brother Abel? He killed him. Can you imagine how angry he must have been to do such a thing? Pride can certainly lead us down a terrible road. And that road was not hidden from God. Just as He had seen Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden, God also saw what Cain had done to Abel in the field. And He went looking for Cain, and a confession of his sin.
9 And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?
When God confronted Adam and Eve with their sin in the Garden, they admitted to Him what they had done, and sought His forgiveness. But unlike his parents, when Cain was confronted by God with his sin, he did not admit what he had done. In fact, his heart was not at all broken, as Adam and Eve’s seemed to be. Cain’s response to God sounded hard and cold. He seemed to have no repentance or sorrow in his heart for what he had done.
What did God ask Cain? He asked Cain where his brother Abel was. And what was Cain’s cold response? Cain asked God if it was really his responsibility to take care of his brother. And while God doesn’t directly answer that question here, it’s one we can take a moment to think about.
Is it really our job to be watching out for everybody else? Sometimes it seems like a big enough job just taking care of ourselves. But listen to what God says through the apostle Paul in Philippians: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory [there’s that pride, again]; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4) Who does God say we’re to be looking out for? Ourselves? No. God says it IS our responsibility to take care of those around us. Yes, it was Cain’s responsibility to take care of his brother. And it’s your responsibility and mine to help take care of those God has put in our lives, too.
God had given Cain every opportunity to do the right thing. He told Cain that it wasn’t too late to go back and bring a proper offering. And He gave Cain a chance to admit to what he had done to his brother. But the hatred in Cain’s heart was so strong that he would not turn back to God. So God had no other choice than to severely punish him for his pride, and for the murder of his brother.
10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.
11 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand;
12 When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.
13 And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear.
14 Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.
15 And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.
16 And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.
God’s Word says that He is “…merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…” (Exodus 34:6-7) God is so gracious, merciful, and ready to forgive that He probably kept hoping Cain would have a change of heart. But listen to how verse 7 ends: “…and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”
God takes sin very seriously. He has to. He is a holy God, and cannot tolerate sin. That’s why He had to deal so harshly with Cain. But the good news for us is that we don’t have to make the same choice that Cain did. We don’t have to let pride or jealousy or anger have control of our hearts. When we sin, we can turn to the Lord, instead of away from Him; and we can confess that sin. And when we do, God has promised He will forgive us. (1 John 1:9)
But it’s so important to confess our sins quickly, before they dig deep into our hearts and make us hard and cold like Cain. When we are saved, and have the Holy Spirit living in us, He will convict us when we sin. He will let us know that things aren’t right between us and God. And it’s right then that we need to take that sin to God, and ask for His forgiveness.
Don’t let your heart ever grow as cold as Cain’s. If you start to feel those sinful feelings that he had, take them right to God. And ask Him to help you take care of those thoughts and feelings. And He will because He loves us, and wants us to have a good relationship with Him at all times.
If you have some of those angry or jealous or prideful feelings in your heart today, why don’t you bow your head with me, and ask God to forgive you, and take those feelings away. He would love to do that for you!
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your holy Word, the Bible. And for all it teaches us about our sin, and Your forgiveness. Lord, if there’s anyone today who has sin in their hearts that they need to confess to You, please make their hearts soft toward You. Help them to let go of their pride. And give them the mercy and grace they will need to leave that sin at Your throne. For we ask in Jesus’ name, amen.
Activity: (Review Questions)
Fill in the Blanks
1. Adam and Eve’s first son was named Cain.
2. Cain was a farmer.
3. Cain’s younger brother’s name was Abel.
4. Abel was a shepherd.
5. Abel brought an animal offering to God. But Cain’s offering was fruit of the ground.
True or False
1. God accepted Abel’s animal sacrifice. (true)
2. God also accepted Cain’s sacrifice of food. (false – God rejected Cain’s offering)
3. Cain realized he was wrong, and returned to God with an animal offering. (false – Cain was angry with God)
4. In his jealousy and anger, Cain killed his brother Abel. (true)
5. Cain confessed the murder to God, and asked for His forgiveness. (false – Cain did not confess his sin to God)