To Get and Acquire

I woke up this morning reflecting on Sunday’s post, specifically Genesis 4:1 where it says, “Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the Lord.””

Two things struck me. The first was that “Cain” means “to get or acquire”  or “gotten one”.  Eve had gotten this manchild with the help of the Lord. Why would she say such a thing if she’d “gotten” children before? And why would the Holy Spirit have Moses record it? 

Secondly, the significance of the idea of getting or acquiring. It occurred to me that the very first act Adam and the woman performed after the fall was one of human good: seeing they were naked, they tried to make things right between themselves by covering themselves with fig leaves. By this act they sought to get or acquire reconciliation. Peace. Normality.

Then, after the fall and leaving the garden, the action first noted by the Holy Spirit as being displeasing to God is also an act of  human good performed by the one whose name means “to get or acquire”.  Cain offered the work of his hands, the fruits and vegetables, products of the earth instead of the blood of the slain lamb he was supposed to have offered.

 (This is indicated by God’s rebuke in vs 6,7; and by the precedent set by God’s provision of the animal skins for Adam and the woman in Gen 3:21 — skins mean an animal had to die for them to be covered, a perfect metaphor for the work of Christ on the cross).

Trying to substitute his own works and efforts for what God had already provided not only showed Cain’s unbelieving state, but also something that I think is the underpinning of human depravity: human good. The desire to get or acquire God’s favor by one’s own effort or merits or righteousness.

Cain’s sins of jealousy, anger and murder came afterward in reaction to the failure of his plan and the thwarting of his desire. (Though technically I suppose that the arrogance underpinning the very idea of human good is the real depravity. It just doesn’t look depraved.)

So many make such a big deal out of sin, but it’s really human good and independence from God that’s the problem. Jesus already paid for everyone’s sins and no one will be judged for them in the end. Instead, they’ll be judged by their deeds. Were they righteous deeds, performed in the power of the Spirit by a perfect individual, or where they human good?

That tree of the knowledge of good and evil… that wasn’t  the knowledge of divine good. They already knew about divine good, because they’d been walking with God every day in the cool of the evening. No, that good was human good, which is a part of evil.

And yet, it looks so good. It feels so good. It feels so right. It is so darned hard to see someone who is sweet and nice and “loving” and doing all these nice things as being a wicked sinner. Human good does not seem gross to us, but in God’s eyes it is as filthy menstrual rags. (Is 64:6 )

I think human good is one of the biggest obstacles not just to admitting you need a savior and believing in Christ, but to really living the Christian way of life.

“Woe to those who call evil good…who substitute darkness for light…” Is 5:20

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Pro 14:12; 16:25

“Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts.” Pro 21:2

“For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.”  I Cor 3:11-13 

The problem of human good doesn’t get near enough the attention that it should. And that suits the enemy just fine…

0 thoughts on “To Get and Acquire

  1. mylittlebub

    This was really cool! The way human good goes back to the very beginning and continues to decieve us now. It does need more attention since we often believe we can make our own good.


  2. Rebecca LuElla Miller

    Interesting thoughts as always, Karen. While I agree with your conclusion (I mean, it is straight from Scripture! 😀 ), I have a different take on the actions Adam and Eve took after their sin. You said: seeing they were naked, they tried to make things right between themselves by covering themselves with fig leaves. By this act they sought to get or acquire reconciliation. Peace. Normality. I see their covering themselves to be the opposite of reconciliation. Just as they hid from God, they were hiding from each other. This is what sin does. It cuts us off from those with whom we were intended to be united. Sin separates.

    So I don’t see Adam and Eve’s efforts to cover themselves as anything good—not even an attempt at human good. I see it as sin working the way sin always works.


  3. Pingback: Good Works and Self-Help in Fiction « A Christian Worldview of Fiction

  4. karenhancock

    Thanks, Mary!

    Becky, thanks for the trackback and the comment. Yes, sin does separate, but that’s not the point. Adam and the woman might have been hiding from each other, but they were trying to fix the problem of their “nakedness,” and therein lies the “good”. Human good isn’t really good; it’s gross. It doesn’t fix things it just makes them worse.

    Technically so far as we know, the man and woman had not been told anything about wearing leaves or not wearing them, so it couldn’t be sinful since sin is disobedience to God’s commands. And at that point there was still only one command — don’t eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of G&E. Besides, if it was wrong of them to cover themselves, why did God give them animal skins to do so?

    In my mind, their relationship was not the issue at all. The issue was that in that one act of eating the forbidden fruit, they had gone from perfectly righteous to totally depraved. From spiritually alive to spiritually dead. Cut off from God, darkened in their minds, no longer able to perceive from divine viewpoint, but only from human viewpoint. In short, a complete mess. Hiding from each other was the very least of their problems and a few leaves sewn together to make themselves more presentable to each other — and maybe to God, though they clearly realized how stupid that was the moment He came walking along — was just their efforts to solve a problem they were totally incapable of solving.

    But I can see that this topic is going to generate far more words than this comment can bear, so I’ll stop.


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