Personal Accountability

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel 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?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.

Genesis 4:1-10


The story of Cain and Abel is a powerful reminder of how fragile human relationships can be. Even when those relationships are within a family. The Story is also a sad one because it captures the first instance of one person taking the life of another.

Life is a precious gift. It is one that we do not always appreciate. But we become aware of its value when we lose a loved one or when we fear losing our own life. In many ways, this is what makes the story of Cain and able so tragic. Not only is a family broken, not only our brothers at out with each other but in the reversible act sets in motion severe consequences.

Personal accountability is something we learn to do as we mature. But it is something we must learn to do.

One of the challenges we all must encounter in life is understanding that every choice we make will have consequences. Some consequences are easier to see. But most consequences to the choices we make may go unnoticed. This is why we should do all we can to be wise and how we conduct ourselves.

The story of Cain and Abel and how God confronts Cain about his actions is a powerful reminder. Not only must we all give an account for our lives but we will give an account for how we treated others. We cannot control what other people do. What we can do is do all we can to live a life that is consistent with God’s character.

With this in mind let’s see what we can glean from the events that took place in the Scripture above.

I. Why did God ask Cain the question, “Where is your Brother?”

  1. I’ve always found God’s question became to be interesting. But when we consider the question in light of who God is and what he knows we can see that the purpose of the question was for the benefit of the reader.
  2. When God asked Cain where his brother was, was it because the God didn’t know? No.
    • Did God want to see if Cain knew where Able was? No, God already knew where Able was.
    • When God asked the question he is not seeking information. Usually when God asks a question it’s to test if we will acknowledge that he already knows. To see if we will lie or tell the truth.
  3. Was it because God wasn’t sure? No, God was not surprised by what Cain had done.
    • Often times we read the Bible we do so based on incorrect assumptions.
    • If when we read the Bible we assume that God is seeking information we will arrive at incorrect conclusions. As I said above when God asked the question he is clarifying something for the person he is questioning.
  4. God asks the question to reveal Cain’s, and ultimately our own inclination to lie about what we’ve done.
    • When we are confronted by what we have done we are not all that quick to admit it.

II. There is no place where we can go to hid from God.

  1. If there is one thing we should learn to accept as followers of Christ and believers of God is that there is no place where we can go that God is not already there.
    • And while this my cause anxiety for some and concern for others, it should really be reason to be thankful.
    • We should be thankful there is no reason to lie to God. Even when we end up doing it anyway.
  2. We shouldn’t even try to do it. But we do and this is where most of us make a critical mistake in our relationship with God.
    • The mistake we make is thinking that if we confess to God that God’s opinion of us will change. But if he already knows and he still desires to have a relationship with us, that our confidence in God’s grace and mercy should increase. Not decrease.
  3. David understood this. What he rights in Psalm 139 can be very scary because of what it implies for us.
  4. Read Psalm 139:1-12

O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” Even the night shall be light about me; 12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

  1. David’s recognition that there is no place where we can go to hide from God’s presence should encourage us to accept that there is no place we need to go to hide from his presence.
    • To be in God’s presence is to be where we should long to be at all times.

III. Personal Accountability is about accepting that nothing is hidden and that truth and honesty are always the best way to respond to God.

  1. This is not always easy. As a matter of fact it is pretty hard to do. But that is the challenge.
  2. We may be accountable to many different people for different reasons (work, school, parents, boy/girlfriend).
  3. In the end we are accountable to God and what it is He wants from and for us in our lives.
  4. Cain’s response to God betrayed him because Cain knew that he was his brother’s keeper.
    • There was no hiding it. Anything other than acceptance of this fact was a lie, not so much to the world, but to himself.
  5. I think that Cain knew the moment he asked the question that he was wrong. Cain’s concerns that when others heard what he had done he would be in danger where real.


Personal accountability is something we learn to do as we mature. But it is something we must learn to do. When we don’t we will find ourselves responding to God the way that Cain did. We will know that we have done wrong but because of our guilt and shame, we will try to keep her from God.

Originally Delivered on Sunday, January 21, 2007. It has been edited and expanded.

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