“By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain” (Hebrews 11:4). The Lord did not respect Cain and his offering, and Cain was very angry, and his face was gloomy. “So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6-7).
Sin lies at the door
Cain’s attitude was a precursor and predictor of what behavior could follow. His brother’s works were righteous, but his were evil (1 John 3:12). It would seem that he is jealous of God’s approval of Abel. God, who searches the heart and tests the mind (Jeremiah 17:10), knows even the innermost secret thoughts and attitudes. Danger lay ahead. When the Lord spoke to Cain with warning, sin was very close – right at the door.
Its desire is for you
The Lord told Cain that sin’s desire is for him. God’s desire is for us, but so is sin’s. Satan is the arch enemy and the great deceiver. He “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Here in verse 7, sin is personified. It, sin, desires to weaken and then to destroy its prey as well as others.
But you should rule over it
The Lord told Cain what he should do. If he should do it, then he could do it. Sin’s desire is to rule or reign over us, but we are commanded to not allow it: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts” (Romans 6:12). Just as the Lord told Cain, we ought to rule over sin, and we do so when we present our “members as slaves of righteousness for holiness” (Romans 6:19).
What about us?
Recognize that temptation to sin is often near. Someone may say, “Oh no, not me; I never have a problem with that. That will never tempt me.” That’s a man setup for failure. “Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Recognize attitudes that have no good outcome, which are precursors to sin and often sin themselves; avoid them, or if you have them, repent of them. For example, the fear of men, the desire for praise of men, anger, and suspicion and surmising set us up for sin. Sins of bitterness, wrath, malice, pride, and envy most often lead to additional sins. “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15). “Be sober, be vigilant” (1 Peter 5:8). Don’t choose to put yourself in the place of temptation; temptation comes easily enough! “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Romans 13:14).
With God’s help, you and I have the ability to overcome temptation. “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Let us then rule over it.