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"Am I My Brother's Keeper?"

Contributed by Marilyn Murphree on Mar 23, 2003 (message contributor)

based on 116 ratings

(rate this sermon)
Scripture: Genesis 4:9-13, Genesis 4:9 (suggest scripture)
Tags: Forgiveness General (suggest tag)
Denomination: Methodist

Summary: What responsibility do I have toward other people?

1 23

Iliff and Saltillo UM Churches

July 21, 2002

Am I My Brothers Keeper?

Genesis 4:9-13

INTRODUCTION: Todays scripture opens with God asking Cain a question. it was a question that Cain already
knew the answer to, but he gave a rather flippant, arrogant answer. God simply asked, Cain where is your
brother Abel? Cain answered, I dont know. Am I my brothers keeper?

The New Living Translation says, I dont know! Am I supposed to keep track of him wherever he goes?

Cain had an attitude problem. He had a meanie on toward his brother in the first place and took him out in the
field and killed him. God was zeroing in on him and putting him on the spot. Hes trying to get away from the
pointed question by saying, How do you expect me to know where he is? Am I my brothers keeper? Am I
supposed to follow him around every minute and know where he is? Hes not MY responsibility!

I thought that this would be a very easy question to answer, but it is a thought-provoking one. Most people
usually give a pat answer on this question.

How many would answer yes?

How many would answer no?

You probably have a variety of reasons why you answered as you did. Cains response to God was one of
CALLOUSED INDIFFERENCE all too common throughout the whole course of human history. Am I my brothers
keeper? People say, Ive got enough to do to look after myself. On the other hand, many times we quickly
say, Yes, I am my brothers keeper, but it turns out to be more of a duty required but a duty geneerally
neglected because of our own selfishness. Matthew Henry said, When a person is unconcerned in the affairs
of others and takes no care when they have opportunity to prevent hurt--especially in their souls,--that person
in effect speaks Cains language.

1. Am I My Brothers Keeper?: What is the definition of KEEPER and who is OUR BROTHER? Does it mean
taking RESPONSIBILITY for another person? Does it mean like Cain thought, following him around all day and
trying to keep track of what he does? Does it mean nagging at a person about their bad habits or controlling
what they say or do, making their decisions for them, bailing them out of their problems when they make bad
choices, lying for them when they are in a pinch or any number of other things?

What does the word KEEPER mean to you?

And just who is OUR BROTHER? Does it refer to a FAMILY MEMBER or to a CHRISTIAN brother or to ANY
PERSON as used in the sense of neighbor in the story of the Good Samaritan?

Are we commanded in Scripture to be our brothers keeper?

These three questions:

1. What does KEEPER mean?

2. Who is our BROTHER

3. Are we commanded to be our brothers keeper

is more thought provoking than we would think. Does scripture give us insight on these questions?

2. To Be or Not to Be: Should I be my brothers keeper or should I strictly mind my own business? Well,
scripture doesnt come right out and give a commandment that says, Thou shalt be thy brothers keeper in
those words. It is not a part of the Ten Commandments either. Jesus gave a New Commandment in John
13:34 that said, a new commandment I give you, Love one another as I have loved you so you must love one
another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.

Summary: What responsibility do I have toward other people?


In Matthew 22:38 Jesus answered the question, Teacher, which is the greatest commandment. He replied,
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and
greatest commandment. And the second is love your neighbor as yourself.

The idea of keeper is to guard, watch, protect, oversee; but it doesnt mean that we take on ownership for
what others should be taking ownership for. We dont enable people to continue doing wrong, cover for them
by lying for them in order to keep them out of trouble. We dont do for people what they should be doing for
themselves. We dont bail people out of situations time and time again. Sometimes parents do not allow their
children to grow up by keeping them dependent upon them -telling them what to do--making their decisions
for them. Some people think they are being their brothers keeper by continually giving advice. We are not our
brothers keeper in that sense.

ILLUSTRATION: There was an EMT who stopped at a little restaurant and while he was there he got a phone
call to come out on an emergency run. He asked the person in the next booth to tell the person that he
couldnt come because he was up in a tree trying to get a cat down. Actually he said, I cant go because I have
been drinking. So the person said, He cant come because hes up in a tree trying to get a cat down.

One lie after another was told to help this poor drunk guy so he wouldnt get fired.

After awhile after all this continued they found out that they were on SPY TV and they were set up.

Romans 14:12 says, Each of us will give an account of himself to God.

You might say, Whew, that gets me off the hook then. God doesnt expect me to be my brothers keeper.

In Galatians 6:5 it says, for each one should carry his own load but in verse 2 it also says, Carry each others
burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Is this a contradiction? I dont think so. We are to
ASSIST IN HELPING people with their burdens but not do it all. To often we dont want people to experience
pain, we dont want people to have to face consequences, we make excuses for why people did not take
ownership of their own responsibilities. Sometimes we make it too easy for people. At times there is a fine
line. How are we then to look at this?

3. Awareness: Cains attitude was arrogant, selfish, and calloused toward his brother. He didnt want to be
bothered by anyone else.

Paul says in Philippians 2:4, each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of
others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.

Scripture gives us an awareness of His attitude toward others and it doesnt let us off the hook concerning our
relationship toward others. Paul and the other New Testament writers gives us specific examples of how we
are to carry out this attitude of Jesus. Here are some of the various ways:

1. Restore: Galatians 6:1 Brothers if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him

Summary: What responsibility do I have toward other people?

12 3

2. Do Not Be a Stumbling Block: I Corinthians 8:9 says Be careful that the exercise of your freedom does not
become a stumbling block to the weak.

STORY: Some months after his conversion Stuart Hamblen said: "My greatest stumbling block has not been my
old cronies out in the world but the skeptical Christians waiting and watching for me to stumble."

- Robert G. Lee, SERMONIC LIBRARY, p. 9.

3. Warn: II Thessalonians 3:15 Do not regard him as an enemy but WARN him as a brother.

4. Generosity: I John 3:17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on
him, how can the love of God be in him?

STORY: A peasant applied to join the Communist party and appears before the local party secretary to answer
questions about his worthiness.

If you have two cats, will you give one of them away?

Yes, I will.

If you have two tractors, will you give one away?


If you have two houses, will you give one away?


If you have two cows, will you give one away?

Oh, no I couldnt do that.

Why on earth not?

The man replied, Because I HAVE two cows!

James says, Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food if you of you says, Go, I wish you
well. Keep warm and well fed but does nothing...what good is it? (James 2:16). Do we try to share what we
HAVE with one another?

5. Kindness: II Peter 1:7 says, Add to your faith...brotherly KINDNESS.

STORY: Joe had been away from his family for two weeks and was getting lonesome. As he sat down in a little
restaurant to eat, the waitress asked, What would you like?

Joe said, I want some lasagna and a few kind words.

The waitress soon returned with his order, set it in front of him and turned to leave when Joe said, Say, what
about my kind words?

She laughed and said, Dont eat the lasagna.

6. Encourage: Acts 15:32 says to encourage and strenthen the brothers.

Hebrews 10:25 says, Let us encourage one another.

7. Pray For: James 5:16 says therefore confess your sins and pray for each other that you may be healed.

8. ANGER: Matthew 5:22 says anyone who is ANGRY with his brother is subject to judgment.

9. FAITHFULNESS: Hebrews 13:1 says Keep on loving one another.

10. SERVE: Galatians 5:13 SERVE one another in Love.

CONCLUSION: Are you your brothers keeper? What kind of keeping do you do? Nagging, controlling,
criticizing, parenting, rescuing, loving praying, encouraging? What brothers and sisters do you keep?

Today what does it mean to you to be your brothers keeper? Which of your relationships need strengthening
or healing?