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  • Writer's pictureKandi Swift

Am I My Brother's Keeper?

Philippians 2:4 (ESV) - "Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interest of others."

I grew up in a remote part of town on a large piece of land surrounded by crops and cotton fields. During the day, you could see and hear the crop dusters flying overhead and kids playing in the streets. At night, the skies were so clear you could see a thousand stars and only the sounds of crickets chirping and frogs croaking for miles. It was a safe neighborhood, and everyone knew one another even to the farthest street over. As kids, we would ride our bikes up and down the dirt hills, play in our treehouses and sometimes get our feet wet in the irrigation ditches. It was much more common to find us playing outside than inside of the house. We didn’t have cell phones for our parents to call us, or watches to keep track of the time. It was just expected we be back when we were told to be back. If we weren’t, mom would come looking for us and the whole neighborhood would know it. She had a voice that would carry for blocks and she wasn’t afraid to use it. Every now and then, one of us wouldn’t respond to the call of her voice and she would ask the ones that were home if we knew where the other was. She would be quite upset when we didn’t. I don’t think she really expected us to be our “brother’s keeper” in these instances, but I do feel she believed we should take some responsibility in having an awareness or sense for one another.

The common phrase, “am I my brother’s keeper” was originally coined by Cain after murdering his brother, Abel, as told in the bible in Genesis chapter four. It was born out of a guilty heart. Cain knew where his brother was. He had become jealous of Abel and rather than looking at his own heart and correcting the thing he did wrong in the sight of God, he chose to blame his brother instead and ended up killing him. Thousands of years later and we are still using this rhetorical question when asked if we know where someone is. We’re typically joking when we do, but what we’re really saying by that remark is, “I’m not responsible for my brother. He’s not my problem, so how should I know?”

I believe God’s heart and expectation of us is that we are our brother’s keeper. Of course, we aren’t expected to know the physical location of our brothers and sisters at all times, but we are instructed to care for one another. And in that caring, we should have a sense and awareness of “where they are”. Are they hurting? Have they suffered a recent loss? Are they struggling emotionally, physically, spiritually? We are instructed to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. How can we do that? By having an intentional awareness of and responsibility toward one another. He tells us to put jealousy and selfish ambition aside. As we see in the story of Cain and Abel, those things cause us to look at others as our problem, rather than addressing the wrongful thing in us. When we choose to be our brother’s keeper, we deny ourselves the opportunity for jealousy and selfish ambition, which then allows our hearts to be open to see others and become aware of where they are.

Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes, I am, and I want to become better at it every day.

Scriptures:

James 3:16 (ESV) - "For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice."


I Peter 3:8 (ESV) - "Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind."


Philippians 2:4 (ESV) - "Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interest of others."

I John 3:16-18 (ESV) - 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

 

Prayer

Lord, help me to become a better brother’s keeper. Open my heart and my eyes to see my brother or sister that might be in need of prayer, assistance or even just a hug. May I become more aware of “where they are” and demonstrate the love of Christ.

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