Consider the tragic story of two brothers. Youth today can often identify with the story of jealousy, rage and murder. Cain was jealous that his younger brother's offering met with more favor in God's eyes than that which he brought. This is a story you can relate to youth, using a number of different Bible study activities to help them learn practical lessons from the ancient events.
Discuss what the relationship between Cain and Abel was like before they made their offerings. For Cain to murder his brother over the rejected offering, there likely had been tension between them before. Encourage students to read into the story and to think about what is not written. Ask students to mention other pairs of brothers from the Scripture and compare their relationships with that of Cain and Abel. Make a list of siblings who got along well -- such as Moses and Aaron -- and those who had tense relationships -- such as Jacob and Esau. Have the teens list characteristics in each relationship and what made them good or bad.
Winning God's Favor
Divide youth into small groups and have them discuss why Abel's offering was pleasing to God and Cain's was not. Have them make a list of what they offer to God, whether it is a tithe, service, prayer time or anything else. Ask them to analyze what makes their offering to God pleasing to him or not.
After reading the story of Cain and Abel, point out that Cain turned his anger against his brother when he did something that God didn't approve. Give teens a piece of paper and ask them to write down a time when they were very angry at someone. Challenge them to analyze the reasons why they were angry and what they did with their anger. Ask them to determine whether their anger was directed at the right source and accept responsibililty for what they might have done to contribute to the situation.
Ask the teens in your Bible study class to imagine how the story might have turned out differently if Cain and Abel had exhibited true brotherly love for each other. Have them create a skit that would show how Cain and Abel could have acted in a way that supported each other and helped each other to become better people and more godly men. Have youth reflect on their relationships with their siblings or other close relatives. Have them make a list of at least five things that they could do to improve their relationship with their sibling and practice the brotherly love that God teaches in the Bible.
For older students or for a Bible study course in a school, this story from Genesis 4 can be studied in greater depth. Assign youth the book "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck and have them write an analysis comparing the Biblical story of Cain and Abel with the story Steinbeck wrote. Direct students to research burnt offerings in the Old Testament. Have them write an essay explaining what God expected from burnt offerings and why he would have favored Abel's offering and rejected Cain's. Assign a creative writing lesson to students to write a short story about Cain's life after he received the mark from God and was sent into exile.
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