Chris guided the sander back and forth over the rough wood surface. He glanced over his shoulder to see if Alex had finished his project. Chris couldn’t let his punk of a brother beat him. He pictured the prize for this year’s contest. The new iPad mini. It wasn’t just the prize Chris wanted but the coveted first-place ribbon. Every year Alex had taken it home.
Not this time. It’s my turn, little brother.
Chris would not only win the prize but gain their father’s respect. Chris was tired of hearing, “Alex, your project is awesome. I’m so proud of you.”
As if sensing his thoughts, Alex ran his fingers over Chris’ wood. “Looks good. Nice and smooth. You just might win this year.”
“We’ll see,” Chris said. He returned to his sanding. The smell of fresh lumber filled his nose and he inhaled. Woodworking was one of his favorite things to do. Only four days left to finish.
Friday after school Chris shuffled up the steps, shoulders drooped. Alex raced by him and slammed the door in Chris’ face.
“I won again, Dad.”
Chris clenched his jaw and stepped inside the house. His father patted Alex on the back. “Great job. Proud of you.”
No longer able to hold it in, Chris pulled his brother’s project off the table and threw it on the floor. It broke into pieces. “I should have won. Mine was better than yours.”
Chris tugged the ribbon from Alex’s hand. “I want it.”
Alex pulled back. “No!”
“Boys, stop,” his father said. He glanced at the ruined project and turned to Chris. “Son, what have you done?”
Chris hung his head.
Jealously drove Cain to do the inconceivable. Kill his brother, Abel. Over what? God praised Abel for his offering and not Cain’s. Why do you suppose that was? Maybe Cain didn’t give his all. Maybe Abel gave out of a cheerful heart and Cain didn’t. The Bible doesn’t really tell us, but we know one thing—jealously drove Cain mad.
Last weekend I watched The Return of the King and the scene at the beginning reminded me of these two brothers in Genesis. Sméagol and his friend Déagol were enjoying a day of fishing when suddenly a catch pulled Déagol out of the boat. Déagol finds the one and only ring while he’s submerged under water. Once Sméagol sees it he knows he has to have it. After all, it’s his birthday and he “wants it.” They struggle, each suddenly consumed over a material item.
Sméagol’s obsession to have this ring drives him to do the unthinkable. He kills his friend. And then, he forgets his own identity and becomes Gollum—a creature infatuated with his precious. So much that he forgets the taste of bread and the sound of the trees. He hides from everyone in Middle Earth.
Similar, Cain’s obsession leads him to kill his brother. God curses him and says, “You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”
Not sure if Tolkien’s intent was to parallel Gollum’s story with Cain and Abel, but it’s close. What can we learn from both?
Jealously can lead us to do what we normally wouldn’t. Clearly, Cain was jealous over Abel. So much so, he not only killed his brother but also lied about it. I doubt he would have done that if jealously wasn’t a factor. I remember being envious over some girls in school when I was young. They were more popular, prettier, smaller, etc. I tried to fit in, but never did. It drove me to dislike them. Who are you jealous of? Let’s be thankful for what God has given us. We’re special in our own way.
Obsession is deadly. Gollum and Cain were driven by what consumed them. It caused unspeakable acts. What do we obsess over? Wealth? Fame? Possessions? While these may not be deadly, they can overcome us and take over. Let’s curb it before it’s too late.
They lost their identities. Cain became a wanderer. Sméagol forgot who he was. Have you ever lost your identity? I have. Mine wasn’t over an obsession, but I know what it’s like to become someone you’re not. You lose all sense of direction and it’s not easy to break free. Let’s keep our eye on the One who knows us—inside and out. He will be our Guide.
Is there an obsession or jealousy you need to let go of? Is something driving you to be someone you’re not?
Let’s break free and become who God has called us to be.
What’s your obsession? Has it made you lose your identity? Tell us your story.
Genesis 4:10-12 (The Message)
God said, “What have you done! The voice of your brother’s blood is calling to me from the ground. From now on you’ll get nothing but curses from this ground; you’ll be driven from this ground that has opened its arms to receive the blood of your murdered brother. You’ll farm this ground, but it will no longer give you its best. You’ll be a homeless wanderer on Earth.”
The Return of the King – Sméagol and Déagol