Sometimes when we read the Bible, we wonder why God cared about some of the things He cared about. The story of Cain and Abel is one of those stories for some people.
A long time ago, just after Adam and Eve had to leave the garden of Eden, they were very sad about disobeying God. They asked God how they could show Him how sorry they were. God told them that they could show Him how they felt by sacrificing a lamb, which they did.
After awhile, Adam and Eve had two sons. Their first son was called Cain and their second was called Abel.
Cain was a farmer. He grew vegetables and grains. Abel was a shepherd who looked the family's herds. Cain and Abel were like most siblings -- they didn't always get along. But they were brothers and loved each other very much, despite their occasional fights.
Adam and Eve (their mom and dad) told Cain and Abel about the message God gave them that they should sacrifice a lamb to God to show how much they appreciated all He'd done and how sorry they were for their sins.
Abel was very concerned that his sacrifice be special to God. He chose his first and best lamb and offered it to the Lord. It was hard for Abel to give up his most prized possession, but it was important to him to try his best to do as God had asked.
Cain thought his little brother was a bit silly for giving up his best lamb. "Good grief," he thought. "We need that lamb, God doesn't. I'm sure He'd be just as happy if we sacrificed the runt of the litter. In fact, why does it need to be a lamb at all? I'm a farmer and it's been a great year for my wheat crop -- I can't use everything I've grown. Why don't I just burn some of the extra straw I have. That way, I won't be wasting any."
Cain's reasoning sounds pretty good when you first hear it, doesn't it?
Cain watched as the lamb burnt up completely on the altar, while his left over straw just smoldered a bit and never really caught fire at all.
That could mean only one thing! God preferred Abel.
Cain was jealous! He didn't take the time or the responsibility to realize that it was his decision to sacrifice straw that caused the difference in God's response to their sacrifices. Instead, he just got angry at his brother.
Cain asked Abel to go for a walk with him, and while he was still angry, Cain struck Abel to the ground and killed him.
When Cain realized what he'd done, he was more concerned that someone might have seen what he'd done than he was sorry for his brother's death. He looked around and sighed a breath of relief that no one was nearby.
And then the Lord spoke, "Cain, where is your brother."
Cain shrugged, "I dunno! Am I my brother's keeper?"
God replied, "Cain, how could you be so cruel to your only brother. He has done nothing, but try his best for Me, for his parents... and for you."
Cain fell to the ground sobbing. Finally, he felt the horror of what he'd done. And he had to live with that feeling and the knowledge that he'd murdered his little brother for the rest of his life.