The Descent of Sin
“What I do in moderation, my children will do to excess.”
This is a proverb, not a biblical one, but one we might be able to glean from the Scriptures.
I tried to find who first coined it, but the origin was rather elusive online.
It conveys that idea that whatever actions I engage in, my children will see it and think that it’s okay.
They may even take it a step further, or even go overboard with it.
This will likely happen unless they get hurt by whatever actions we are talking about—and even getting hurt is no guarantee they will stop.
This is not a hard and fast rule, certainly.
It could be that children see a destructive behavior in their parents and vow never to engage in that behavior.
For instance, my grandfather was an alcoholic when my father and his brothers were growing up. As a result, my dad vowed never to touch the stuff.
But we do find this to be a general rule.
Up until I started having kids, I would often drive about 10 over the speed limit. My mom often drove 5 over—of course my dad was often 5 under.
I realized that if I want my kids to be safe on the road when they start driving, I should probably stick to the speed limit—they may go a little over, but they will be less likely to go too fast.
Anyway, this proverb is making me keenly aware of what I do and how my kids see me and what example I am setting for them.
We see this pattern in Scriptures often as well.
We can’t help but to see the excesses in the book of Judges.
The idolatry of the people gets worse and worse with every iteration of the cycle we see in that book: idolatry, oppression, repentance, deliverance.
The king get progressively worse in the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah until they are both taken into captivity.
It is a common theme in Scriptures, and one we are going to look at today.
Adam is Remorseful.
An idyllic setting.
As we read through Genesis 1 and 2, it is a sight that is hard to imagine.
He is in a world that God Himself called “very good” (1:31).
He was placed in a beautiful garden with plenty to do, tending it and keeping it (2:15).
And he was in want of nothing, given free access to all the food he could possibly want in the garden—and he didn’t need clothes (2:16, 25).
He was the only person on the whole planet for a little while as he was surveying the animals and the creation God had just made (2:19-20).
He even had a woman tailor made for him, and he for her (2:21-22).
And there was only one rule: don’t eat of the fruit of one tree on the garden (2:17).
That’s all, just one negative rule involving some fruit.
Breaking the rule.
We know the story: Satan comes in the form of a serpent to tempt Eve into breaking that one rule God had given them.
The command not to eat this fruit was given directly to Adam and relayed to Eve through him.
Eve restates the rule, but in fact adds on to it: you shall not touch it.
God never said not to touch it. That may have been added on by Adam or Eve to ensure that the fruit is not eaten.
You can’t eat it if you don’t touch it!
Once she touches it and realizes nothing bad happens, it might encourage her to keep going.
We often put hedges around sin to keep us from actually committing sin.
While the goal is laudable, we should not be emboldened when the hedge is breached, nor should we enforce that hedge on others.
This is why I often say doing a particular thing is a good idea rather than a hard and fast rule—that thing is a hedge to protect us from sin.
In any event, the woman takes it and eats it.
And she “gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (3:6).
And then we see the effects.
There is ample evidence of remorse that Adam and Eve feel after they broke this one law they were given.
They knew they were naked and sewed fig leaves together (3:7).
They hid from God’s presence as best a person could (3:8).
This was not an ideal reaction, but it is a natural one when we feel guilt.
We know it’s going to be unpleasant for us, so we run, we flee from the unpleasant situation.
That’s the reaction Adam makes before the Lord finds him and he starts the blame game.
He even says, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself” (3:10).
Then we begin to see the effect of their transgression.
There was nothing particularly special about the fruit, but the command that the Lord had given them.
God gave them a choice whether or not to obey Him, and sadly they failed.
This had universal consequences in the curses given to all mankind.
The serpent, that is Satan, was cursed first (3:14-15), then the woman (3:16), then the ground because of the man (3:17-19).
We often focus on those curses because of their universal scope.
But we cannot forget the more immediate consequences in Adam’s family.
Sure they didn’t have any children yet, but we will see that, while Adam felt remorse for his sin, Cain did not.
Cain is Indifferent.
A familial setting.
While the setting Cain was in was not quite as idyllic as Adam’s it was certainly different than what we are used to.
There were at least 5 people alive at this time: Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, and Cain’s wife (4:1-2a, 17).
If there were more, there could not have been too many more.
They were exiled from the beautiful Garden of Eden that the Lord set up specifically for mankind to live (3:22-24).
Making a living and providing for themselves was a difficult task, as the curse on the ground made a reality.
Yet Cain made a living as a farmer, tilling that very ground that was cursed, while Abel was a shepherd (4:2b).
It was just a man and his brother doing what they could to provide for themselves and their kin.
The motive and the deed.
Both of these brothers decided to give an offering to the Lord.
We have no record of this being commanded up to this point, but it is a common theme throughout the Bible.
These heads of these families were to serve as a sort of priest for their families.
They offered sacrifices for the absolution, the forgiveness, of their sins.
When we went through Leviticus, we learned that not every sacrifice, however, was for this purpose.
Some sacrifices were of praise and thanksgiving, some simply to get closer to God.
It is not clear what the exact purpose of this sacrifice was, but one consistent theme for them is giving one’s best.
Cain’s sacrifice was of the fruit of the ground, that which was his produce, while Abel’s was from his flock.
Some say this was bad because this was not a blood sacrifice, but the grain offering detailed in Lev. 2 did not require blood.
Looking at the language used here, it was clear Cain did not offer his best (“Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground” 4:3), but Abel did (“Abel also brought the firstborn of his flock and of their fat” 4:4).
Cain was sinning by essentially offering his leftovers.
He was angry that God hadn’t accepted his sacrifice of leftovers (4:5).
God warns Cain about his anger and his sin, but he disregards the warnings (4:6-7).
Instead he goes into the field and murders his righteous brother Abel (4:8).
Why? John tells us much later, that it was “because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12).
Sometimes it’s as simple as that.
When you read 4:9, do you detect any hint of remorse?
Recall, that Adam ran and hid and was afraid, clear evidence of remorse.
Is there any of that with Cain? No, in fact he asks defiantly, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
In other words, am I in charge of him like a shepherd keeping his sheep?
We see the decline of humanity in just one generation.
Where one ran, hid, and was afraid, here we so no indication of any of that, but rather of bold defiance.
Such a sad thing… Cain was able to talk directly to God Almighty Himself and even get a verbal response, and yet what did he do with it? Speak to Him like some bratty teenager.
We see no written command before this that stated murder was sinful, but from God’s reaction, we can tell that Cain knew what he did was wrong but he just didn’t care (4:10).
Like his father before him, Cain was cursed because of this transgression.
The curse that came upon his father was amplified—no matter how much he tilled, he would not be able to produce anything (4:11-12).
That was his livelihood, and now he would have to find some other way to survive, and with so few people to work, how hard that would be!
But he managed to find a way, even building a city in seeming defiance of the curse to be a fugitive and a vagabond.
Yet we see the ultimate effect in his descendant Lamech.
We don’t know much about those between Cain and Lamech (4:17-18).
But as Adam’s “moderation” resulted in Cain’s “excess,” we’ll find that Cain’s “moderation” will result in Lamech’s “excess.”
Lamech is a Braggart.
Lamech’s world was more familiar to us.
He is several generations from Adam, but we’re not sure how populated the world was by this point.
There were surely cities and civilization by then.
He took two wives, the first biblically recorded instance of polygamy, of course by Cain’s wicked line.
“Oh that’s not fair,” you might say. “We don’t know that his line is wicked.”
Maybe not, but given the theme of this sermon, and how things generally go, it wasn’t a very righteous line, as we’ll see in a moment.
One thing I will point out is, despite how wicked Lamech was, he bore three sons who were highly skilled, likely the first of their kind.
It doesn’t matter how great and successful you or your children are, if you’re wicked, your home isn’t in heaven.
Nobody thinks they’re wicked, and neither did Lamech as we’ll see.
The motive and the deed.
Lamech was a murderer, and we see the reason for it (4:23).
This individual who is not named—we literally know nothing about this person except what is written in this verse.
Here is what we know: he was a young man, he hurt and wounded Lamech, Lamech murdered him.
But we only get Lamech’s side of the story.
Did this young man really hurt Lamech? If so, was it worth taking his life?
We understand the idea of self defense and protecting one’s life and property.
Is that what’s going on here? Maybe, but it could just as easily be the equivalent of cutting him off in traffic.
If Lamech is to be believed, this man wounded and hurt him.
The word for wound could mean anything we might think a wound could be.
But the word for hurt also has the meaning of a stripe or bruise.
While Abel did nothing wrong, it would appear this man did.
But do we kill people for giving us a bruise? No, the reaction was disproportionate, an overreaction for sure.
As we stated, the only reason we know about this is because of what was recorded here.
If you have a NKJV, you’ll note that this is in poetic verse.
The first poetic verse was from Adam, telling of the beautiful creation of his wife (2:23).
The next poetic verse that originated from a man was about this man’s overreaction, and taking the life of another.
There is the minute possibility where we might give Cain the benefit of the doubt, but that cannot extend to Lamech.
This is particularly true given the boast that finishes out his poem (4:24).
In other words, if someone gets punished for killing Cain (4:15), he thought someone should get punished even more for hurting Lamech!
He took that vengeance upon himself, but we know vengeance belongs to God.
Sure, there are consequences to actions, but this young man should not have been killed for a bruise.
Adam felt remorse, Cain was indifferent, but now Cain’s descendant is proud of what wickedness he has done.
Cain’s “moderation” turned to Lamech’s “excess.”
There is no record of the consequences that Lamech experienced due to his transgression.
But we can see the effects of this in Genesis 6.
In my estimation, these events late in Gen. 4 may have taken place about 1000 years before the Flood in Gen. 6.
That may seem like a lot of time, but recall how long-lived they were back then—this could very well have occurred within the lifespan of Lamech’s children.
And we see that this violence had filled the whole earth, enough to prompt the Lord to destroy it all and start over (6:11-13).
Lamech’s “moderation” became the world’s “excess.”
Lamech clearly wasn’t alive for Cain’s sin, but he surely knew about it. Cain wasn’t around for Adam’s sin, but one generation removed, don’t you think he knew about it?
The sin of Adam led to the sin of Cain which led to the sin of Lamech which led to violence filling the whole earth—to the point that the Lord considered it unsalvageable.
And when the earth was renewed, one of the first things God said after Noah and his family left the ark was on this very issue (9:6).
What seeds are we planting with our children and grandchildren today?
What sins do they see us doing, or that they might hear about us doing?
What might it lead to generations down the road?
Some might call that a slippery slope argument, but we see it playing out right here in the first few chapters of Genesis.
Of course, it is better not to sin, but if we do sin it is good to feel bad about it.
Hopefully that God-given conscience will kick in to prevent us from doing that again.
But if it doesn’t, eventually that will lead to indifference, and that indifference may lead to pride in your sin.
That’s true in our lives, and that’s true with our legacy, those who come after us, who see us every day and know what kind of person you are.
Of course, everyone has personal responsibility for their own actions, but our actions and influence upon those in our house can either help or hurt them.
It can make it easier or more difficult for them to make the right choices.
This can apply to our words as much as to our actions.
Words matter, and we need to make sure we guard them, particularly around our children.
The best decision you can make for you and your family is to become a Christian.
That is most certainly the right choice to make.
And if you become a Christian, it’s the first step to influence your family for Christ.
But it can’t stop there—you must live for Christ yourself.
Because your actions don’t just affect you, but they can affect all those around you.
And if you present yourself with a Christ-like attitude, then you are sharing Christ through your example.
That may or may not result in conversions, but it will result in this world being a better place.
Become a Christian today.