You passed someone with a disabled vehicle on the side of the road, but he can handle it himself. You have a lot on your plate, you’re dealing with a lot and work is tough. You see a coworker struggling but you figure that person knew what he was getting into so you leave him alone. Your next-door neighbor needs some food but you figure they shouldn’t spend so frivolously, so you decide they deserve it. It will teach them to change. You see someone steal something small at the local superstore but you don’t say anything because you don’t want to get involved and you figure it won’t hurt the story anyway. One of your co-workers had a bad day the day before, but you fail to ask how the person is doing today. You think, she can deal with it because she is an adult. Finally, your friend is going through a bad time his wife but you encourage him to break free and live the single life again. All these thoughts and actions have one thing in common, they lack compassion for other people and in so doing those thoughts and actions become a detriment to you, the others involved and society in general. Why is this? Our inaction causes harm in itself. We act inappropriately, when we decide not to come to the aid of others who are suffering. We are actually causing harm when we fail to aid others; our lack of action is causing an action, that of allowing harm to continue for those receiving it. In essence, you are your brother’s keeper. Genesis chapter 4 verse 2 sets up the rational for this article. Genesis chapter 4 verse 2 states -And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. Gen 4:9 -And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?
This is the great rhetorical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” It is rhetorical because Cain knew the answer, it was rhetorical because it a rebuff of his responsibilities to care for others. The question was an answer to God himself. It stated, “I am not to blame. He is of his own accord.” He threw his responsibility away. Mathew Henry writes, “Am I my brother’s keeper? Surely he is old enough to take care of himself, nor did I ever take any charge of him.” Some think he reflects on God and his providence, as if he had said, “Art not thou his keeper? If he be missing, on thee be the blame, and not on me, who never undertook to keep him.” Note, a charitable concern for our brethren, as their keepers, is a great duty, which is strictly required of us, but is generally neglected by us. Those who are unconcerned in the affairs of their brethren, and take no care, when they have opportunity, to prevent their hurt in their bodies, goods, or good name, especially in their souls, do, in effect, speak Cain’s language. To this effect the when you know that your positive assistance toward someone’s situation would prevent harm then you are not only violating your own responsibilities under God’s law but also civic ethical law. You are in effect violating Kantian Deontological ethics.
How is this possible? Kantian Deontological ethics requires you to act in a way that it is from duty, that its ends justify its means and that you cannot act in a way that makes a situation ethically worse, even if it is inaction. One example of this is the trolley incident. This is the permissible harm argument, wherein we believe it would be impermissible to kill one person to harvest his organs in order to save the lives of five others. Yet, we think it is morally permissible to divert a runaway trolley that would otherwise kill five innocent and immobile people onto a sidetrack where one innocent and immobile person will be killed. Permissible harm explains the moral difference between these and other cases. Regardless of whether it is Godly biblical law or Kantian civil ethical law, if your lack of concern or action in the end causes harm you are at fault. If your action would have prevented more harm to occur in another person’s situation and because you did not act, more harm occurred then you are acting in an unmoral and unethical way. Yes, you are your brother’s keeper.
The fruit of Cain’s false worship was to avoid the presence of God and to lose himself in the world and its pursuits. We are losing ourselves in ourselves and what drives our satisfaction but this process is pulling us away from our moral obligations to others in our society. We cannot be narcissistic and serve others. We cannot have a functional workplace and only be out for ourselves there. We cannot raise a family when we are out for ourselves all the time. We only have so much time in the day and we can devote most of it to ourselves or some of it to others. You cannot be in two places at once, serving yourself in whatever activity or thought you choose and still attend to others. One will lose and one will win. Deuteronomy 22:4 shows how we are obligated to help out our brother’s, our friends and others. – Thou shalt not see thy brother’s ass or his ox fall down by the way, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt surely help him to lift them up again. We are to help others, prevent their harm and prevent harm by not turning a blind eye toward harm. We are not to turn away from those who could use our help. We need to be our brother’s keeper for in so doing we do as God has done for us. This is as it is written in Psalm 121:5 – The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. Do not let our lack of compassion cause others to fall further into trouble. Romans 14:13 states – Let us not therefore judge one another anymore: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.
F.B Meyer writes, God’s first question to the soul is, “Adam, where art thou?” The next, “Where is thy brother?” We are our brother’s keepers. All related to us, within our reach, or needing our help have a claim. We must not take advantage of them. Their well-being and our own are inseparable. God keeps an inventory of His saints, and will avenge them. Strong’s Definition of keeper is a hedge around and guard, protect and attend too, be aware, mark and look narrowly, observe, preserve, regard. When we act as our brother’s keeper, we protect them through observation and action when we observe their harm. In fact when we show love to others, when we help our brother’s, our family, our friends, neighbors, our co-workers, then as 1st John 3:14 states – We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. However, if we continually turn our backs on those who need hope, love, a kind word, a dollar, a loaf of bread or a myriad of other helpful acts then we lack compassion and are godless. This is stated in 1st John 3:17 – But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? The answer to this question is found within it. A person who turns away from another’s need does not have the love of God in him. He is therefore, Godless and as such is not of the Lord. Finally, Thayer’s definition of conscience is the soul as distinguishing between what is morally good and bad, prompting to do the former and shun the latter (related to) becoming aware and seeing completely. Therefore, when you continually act only for yourself, you lack a conscience, when you do not see others pain but only seek your pleasure then you are amoral.
Cain was interested in only himself. He carried only for how his sacrifices were viewed in relation to his brothers. He gave poorly to God and kept the best for himself. He was narcissistic and self absorbed and in so he grew envious of his brother. He was not his brother’s keeper and in so doing his lack of compassion drove him from the grace of God. His own selfishness proved his internal wickedness. You know who you are and who others are by their acts. As 1st John 3:12 states – Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. 1st John 4:20 – If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 1st John 4:21 – And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
When you fail to help others by walking away, you facilitate their harm. We need to begin to help others again. We as a society need to be kind and ask others how they feel, if they need help and how their day was. We need to hug our children more, tell our wives we love them more, tell our brothers we care about them and if they need anything. We need as towns to come together in celebration, to know our neighbors, stop by once in a while and ask them how they are doing. We need as a country to come together, keep our jobs at home, pay a fair wage for a fair days work and work hard for each other. We need to engage in civics and vote. We need to talk to each other and not think our way is the only way things should be. 1st Corinthians 8:12 states – And sinning in this way against your brothers, and wounding their conscience, being weak, you sin against Christ. 2nd Corinthians 4:2 – But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness, nor adulterating the Word of God, but by the revelation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. Therefore, when we are not our brother’s keeper we sin against our brother’s, we sin against Christ and are acting in error. However, when we are our brothers keeper we as Acts 23:1 states – And looking earnestly on the sanhedrin, Paul said, Men, brothers, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. We become blameless and act as God acts toward us, Acts 24:16 – And in this I exercise myself, always to have a blameless conscience toward God and men. When we are our brother’s keeper, we help them, our families, our children, community, our society and ourselves. When you do not, you are not only doing harm in Gods eyes but if you do not believe in God then you are doing wrong in terms Kantian Deontological civic ethics. Therefore, let’s help each other even if they don’t ask. Let us not use the excuse of not getting involved or they can handle it themselves as a reason not to help your brother. It is not really an excuse; in reality, you’re hurting them.