Many of you will no doubt recognize that question, taken from the Genesis account of Cain and Abel.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Cain was angry with his brother Abel because his brother’s offering was acceptable to God, while his own was rejected. In a jealous rage, this is what happened:

Now 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 killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” Genesis 4:8-9

We know that Cain asked this question as a means of deflecting attention away from his guilt for having murdered his own brother. He basically told God “how should I know where he is, it’s not my job to watch him, is it?”

Ever since then, it’s a question that individuals have been asking themselves whenever needs arise, whether man-made or natural. It is a question that probes at the heart, and our answers reveal a lot about how we feel about our fellow man.

In a perfect world, there would be enough of everything to go around. There would be a job for every able-bodied person. The issues of hunger, sickness, and poverty that now plague the world’s society’s would vanish.

It doesn’t take a sociologist(or a theologian)to look around and determine that we are not living in a perfect world. That world existed for a very short time in a place called Eden, a place where the only two humans on the planet existed.

In our modern world however, things are quite a bit different. In this less than perfect world, there are a lot of people that are in dire need of help. The notion of a perfect world to them is the stuff of fairy tales.

It may be the hungry child down the street, or the immigrant family trying to cross the threshold into what they perceive as paradise, or a thousand other desperate situations.

Regardless, the numbers of people who have reached the point of helplessness in their quest for survival is nothing short of staggering. So much so that one could make the case for not even trying to find a viable solution to this seemingly impossible situation.

But how do you tell the desperate, the hungry, and the hopeless that their plight is too big to bother with? How do we look them in the eye and say they are not worth the effort?

Sadly, there are an ever increasing number of people who believe just that, that the problems are too large and complex, and besides, it’s not us but “them”. But is that how loving, civilized society’s are to function?

Poverty in the U.S. alone affects over 40 million people. An additional 95 million are living at ‘near poverty’ levels. How can this be ignored? And what of the rest of the world, all of which is far worse off than the United States? [1]

My contention is that we as a society, particularly a society founded upon Christian principles, do indeed have an obligation to help those who cannot help themselves.

Otherwise, ‘survival of the fittest’ and ‘only the strong survive’ become the new laws of the jungle and it’s every man, woman, and child for themselves.

Is that what any of us really want?

All of us, irregardless of political, religious, or sociological backgrounds are inextricably linked together by a common bond: the need to have enough food to eat, clothing to wear, and a roof over our heads.

When you really think about it, the question of “Am I my brother’s keeper” is actually more relevant today than it was in the days of Cain and Abel.

In the world that Cain and Abel lived in, there were only four humans upon the earth. Four, as in Adam,Eve,Cain, and Abel. Four souls.

In our world, we have a far greater challenge before us.  At last count, there were over seven billion people living on earth. While some will contend that the numbers are too great for anyone to have any kind of positive impact upon, I say that God is equal to the challenge.

He just needs a few willing vessel’s to step up and say that “yes, I am my brother’s keeper”.

Something to ponder, I trust.

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] For a detailed look into the poverty crisis in America, please go to povertyusa.org.      Here you will find an enormous amount of data, broken down into many different categories that will help you better understand how severe the problem is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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