The topic of Good vs. Evil fascinates me. Since I was a child, this idea has evolved being shaped by my upbringing, religion, stories that my grandmother told, urban legends, books, Hollywood movies … in short, by how my mind made sense of all this, and how it interpreted it in the material and spiritual. Although good and evil might seem as black and white, I suspect that there are many shades of gray in between, and our human nature battles in the midst, making sense of it all. If anything, we deserve credit for that. This theme is present in my novels as well.
As a species we thrive in the material contributing to the good and bad on this planet. As spiritual beings we strive to do better. Whether you believe or not in the concept of good vs. evil, of God and the Devil, yin and yang, polarities … or however you want to explain this duality or antithesis, the reality is that we all get sucked in by its allure and fascination, even if you practice atheism – engaging in a hot topic. Good vs. Evil captures the human mind since the beginning of the Homo Sapiens (wise man) or Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, if you prefer that version.
According to one of the most influential books in history, Adam and Eve were seduced by evil, and disobeyed God. But before this, Lucifer had become the devil, and taken a few fallen angels with him. Cain ( son of Adam and Eve) had a bit to do with evil as well. And this is where the concept of evil gets interesting and were shades of gray start painting shades of humanity. When we think of Cain, immediately, we process in our minds (if you know the story or read it in the Bible) that his sin was the act of killing his brother Abel. Yes this was a horrible offense, and so far the first murder in the Bible, since mankind was born. However, the book of Genesis tells a more interesting story – what happened before the murder. What was it?
This is what the book of Genesis tells us about the sin before the sin (in short). This is from the New International Version.
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4: 3-7)
It seems that Cain got upset and jealous of Abel because God liked Abel’s offering better than his. Why this? Upon reading this passage it shows that Abel offered God the fat portions from the first-born of the flock, in other words, the best of the best. While Cain gave “some of the fruits of the soil” or in other words, a good-enough offering, but not the best of the best. And this is what God saw, and I guess that he read both brothers hearts in the offerings, and why he liked one offering better than the other. This made Cain angry and jealous of his brother, but God, being God and all, gave him a warning of things to come, if he continued with this attitude (If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” ). This is profound. When I read this, I saw Cain’s sin issue in respect to his brother, in a new light, and it made me think of the layers of depth in the concept of good vs. evil. These few verses have so much to chew on, but it was this prelude to Cain’s sin of murder that fascinated me the most. Then, I thought – Why did Cain give a mediocre offering? What was going through his mind? It was this thinking that started it all. Then, I came up with a possible explanation. Since Cain worked the land very hard to yield some crops, must likely he knew that his goodies were hard to come by and with much effort (after all, this wasn’t Eden anymore and he had to work for it) therefore, he gave “some.” In other words, he was being stingy with the one who gave and made all – his God. Again, this is so profound because it reveals another layer. In venturing to read Cain’s thought and personality, I think that he had a trust issue. He lacked Trust. Cain was not so sure that God would provide for him, therefore, he was a bit stingy with his offering, and this was in my opinion, Cain’s first offense. He did not trust his Creator and he did not show his trust/love in his offering like Abel did. This attitude was the catalyst that opened the gates that caused Abel’s blood to flow by his hand.
Pondering the shades between Good and Evil may help us to write better and deeper characters, and to craft a story that would give the reader more layers to peel. As writers, we should not be stingy with our offering to the reader, and always try to give the best of the best, according to our ability.
Next In Between the Lines topic – Trust