Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

By Breon Wells

October 6, 2019

“Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?”.

Genesis 4:9


Cain’s response to God’s question regarding Abel’s whereabouts was troubling for so many reasons. Obviously the murder of one brother by another was a violation of God’s order (as he would later outline through the law). Yet there was another subtle and destructive concept that was played out here… selfishness. After committing a transgression against his brother, Cain essentially declares, “What do I have to do with my brother’s well-being?” or put in another way “Not my problem”. What a bold assertion from a person who had taken the life of another person, even his own brother.

Graffitti art of a person silenced and unseeing.God’s response to Cain’s question warrants our attention. God replies “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10 NIV). Amazing! This all-powerful God was able to hear the testimony of the dead. He was attentive to the cries of injustice from the claimant that had deceased. What does this mean? This means that no injustice goes unanswered by God. It also shows that anyone who loves God should adopt his ways and be vocal in answering the injustices that we see in the world.

I fear that today, too many Christians adopt Cain’s attitude of selfishness and indifference… especially when we may have had a hand in the injustices that abound in the earth. We somehow believe that the loud volumes of our songs of worship, our persistent church attendance, and even our tithes and offerings will drown out the screams of the oppressed and forgotten. We want to make things right as long as it does not cost us anything. We’d rather ignore the plight of our neighbors or different people groups if it feels uncomfortable. When we do step up, it is mostly because we can see how it personally impacts us.

This mindset may be natural and earthly…but it is not Christ-like, biblical, nor in alignment with the reality of Christ’s atonement. It doesn’t reflect the values of our God, who once said through Isaiah, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear (Isaiah 58:6-8).

How can we say we are earnestly seeking God and simultaneously ignore his feelings and thoughts? It is impossible to earnestly seek God and not be acquainted with his feelings. If God is troubled by the bloody cries of injustice that abound in this earth, then we should be troubled as well. The truth is that our vertical relationship with God has everything to do with our horizontal relationships in the earth (see 1 John 3:11-18). The more that we become acquainted with the heart of God, the more we will bear the burden to bring the earth in alignment with God’s mindset on prosperity, morality, and even justice.

I assure you that God is hearing the bloody cries of injustice, and we can hear them too. The question we must determine is whether we will be committed to the complete works of atonement and restoration, or will we continue in the legacy of Cain.


God, the fact that we feel uncomfortable is evidence that we perceive the injustices in our world. We don’t ask you to help us hear the cries of injustice, but rather to give us courage to act against the forces of selfishness and pride that would alienate us from the work of wisely stewarding your earth. Teach us how to seek the full manifestation of your Kingdom on earth, which includes justice. And as we embark in this important work, heal our lands, touch our families, and reveal your glory. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentaryThe First Murder (Genesis 4:1-25)

Breon Wells


Breon Wells is the Founder and CEO of The Daniel Initiative. He is a political consultant, musician, vision management consultant, ordained minister, and motivational speaker. After spending six years as a Congressional Staffer, Breon le...

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