“You’re an idiot!” my boss yelled at me. We were sitting in the cab of his pickup truck on the side of the road. I had put the trash barrels in the back of the truck where he told me, saying, “They’ll be fine.” When the wind swept those plastic barrels out and into the ditch beside the highway, he had to cut me down. I imagine he found this situation embarrassing, fearing that a friend or business competitor would see him having to fetch a barrel out of the ditch. Whatever his motive, he felt better by making me feel small. Small Man Syndrome thrives on piercing words and hurtful insults.
Lack of self-confidence
The young man Cain had every reason to be confident. He was a farmer in a land cursed by God to produce thorns and weeds. He did such a good job raising crops, he had enough left over to give as an offering to God. Rather than be comfortable with his success, he grew envious of his brother Abel. Not only was Abel doing well at raising his sheep, he had a soft heart before God.
Cain could not stand to see his brother enjoy the favor of God. This kind of envy and peer hatred does not just occur among families or in a workplace—it happens at church. Men can be so petty as to tell someone, “I don’t think that was really God,” when a unliked man operates in the gifts. “He was in his flesh.” Perhaps the speaker is in his flesh and feels better by cutting down his brother. The logic of this SMS strategy goes like this:
If I can cut off everyone else’s legs,
I will be the tallest person on the planet.
Every week in the body of Christ, Cains murder Abels. God calls us to love each other. Anything other than love for other members of Christ’s church is “of that wicked one” (I John 3:12). What was Cain’s motive for killing his brother? “Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” When you start to criticize or complain about your brother at church, your pastor, or anyone else, stop and ask, “Am I slaying this person’s reputation because he is a better man?” The answer will usually be yes. You never have to cut a person down. Even if they just crawled out of the bottomless pit and are a clone of the devil, we can denounce a person’s sinfulness without crushing the person.
Murder slaps us as too strong of a word to use for the time you told someone the details of why the outreach director and his wife had separated. It was just a juicy story, not murder, right? Wrong. The Apostle John explained that “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer” (I John 3:15). To not love a brother is to hate him (3:14). To hate him is to miss eternal life (3:15). Rather than cut our brother down, we should cut our selves down for his sake: “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (3:16).
Cut yourself down
Do not call yourself an idiot; that does no good, but dishonors God. We cut ourselves down in the pattern of Jesus who came a little lower than the angels, rejected special treatment, and even came to a poor newly-wed couple during a political crisis. He made Himself small so we could become big. He became a servant so we could rule and reign with Him.
Learn redemptive communication. If your brother stumbles, grab his arm and help him up. Keep your mouth shut about his blunders and failings even if it makes you look bad. Jesus must have caused many rumors when He tolerated the prostitute who came to wash His feet. Rather than shame her, He left room for questions about His own integrity (“He’s letting her touch Him?”) so she could be restored.
You do not have to put yourself down, just start lifting others taller. What a different world this would be if Cain had turned to Abel and said, “Wow, you have a great relationship with God. Your prayer life is so meaningful. Could we worship together sometime? Perhaps I could learn something from you.” How different will your world be if you do that this week with your Abel?