January 4th, 2011
My pastor preached on Genesis 4:16-24 this past Sunday and I’ve been ruminating on his words since then.
In those verses, Moses talks about Adam and Eve and their children Cain and Abel. I’m sure that you’re familiar with the story that Cain killed Abel because God was pleased with Abel’s offerings and not Cain’s. So once Cain killed his brother and did not show any kind of remorse or repentance, God cursed him and sent him out to live as a vagabond.
Cain started a family of his own with his wife and decided to build a city for his son, Enoch. And if you look in chapter 4 of Genesis, you’ll see that this city was very prosperous. From Cain’s descendents we have been blessed with things like music, farming and craftsmanship. But while it takes only a handful of verses to discuss generations of Cain’s descendents, the very next devotes the entire chapter to describing certain men of each generation from Adam until Noah.
So while Adam and Cain each started a great city for their descendents, the difference between them is that one had been blessed by God and the other had not. While good things came from both cities, one had everlasting security and the other did not.
So that made me think, what kind of city am I building? What kind of city are any of us building? We’re all resolving something right now: to eat better, to exercise more, to take more risks, to save more money, to donate to charity, to read more books. These are all things that we find important, and indeed they are. In fact, a lot of times I find myself thinking of how I will instill healthy habits and traits in my children. I want them to love vegetables and like to be active. I want them to get good grades so that they can go to great colleges and get stable and fulfilling jobs. And of course I want them to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and temperate (Galatians 5:22-23). But what I realized that is that I want them to exhibit and enjoy the benefits of the "good" life, but tend to skip over the means to that end.
What I’m trying to say is that we can all enjoy those things like health, wealth, and a "nice" personality just like Cain’s city enjoyed prosperity. They were enjoying the common grace of God—the kind of grace that is available to every person on this earth. But my pastor brought up an excellent point: when they die, what would their place be? What city would be waiting for them?
It’s not enough to wish good things for me and for my family and generation. I need to work right now to build a city that is found upon the grace of God—that is to truly know my Savior; to love the Lord, my God, with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. That is what I need to instill in my children and their children, but I can’t teach them if I don’t have it myself. Health and money and mere happiness are temporal. They fail. Why would I wish something so fleeting for myself and people that I love?
The sermon on Sunday made me think of my grandparents and their legacy. Here are two people who are smart, 80 years old and healthy (relatively speaking, I know my Grammy just had open heart surgery–but this was the first time she had been in the hospital for 27 years!), not wealthy but self sufficient, and they are loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and temperate. But even greater than what they have built or how they will be remembered here on earth, I know that when they leave this earth they will meet their Savior in heaven who will say, "well done, good and faithful servants," and then lead them to their place at His banqueting table.
So now, as I ponder it myself, let me ask you: what kind of city are you building?