Creativity and Corruption
by Rev Jacky Quarmby 5 November 2021
Reading: Genesis 4: 17 – 26
So Cain left his home, his land and his family and by the grace of God found a new land and a new home and began a family of his own. In fact, Cain became the father of many generations, all of whom are listed in Genesis 4, in one of those riveting genealogies that the Old Testament is so fond of.
This genealogy, however, is quite interesting. Firstly, we notice the creativity and inventiveness of human beings. Cain builds a city, which he calls Enoch after his first son. Jabal, one of Cain’s descendants develops farming and the keeping of cattle. Jubal (another descendant) encourages the playing of musical instruments and Tubal-Cain (a third descendant) forges tools out of bronze and iron. Civilization is beginning to grow. Men and women, made in the image of God, with that spark of God’s creativity within them are making a mark on their surroundings. There is farming, building, culture and art. So far, so good.
But all is not perfect. By the time of Lamech, men have decided that one wife is just not enough. From the original vision in the Garden, of one man and one woman bound together in love and faithfulness, suddenly the practice of polygamy (multiple wives) has evolved. Lamech has two wives, Adah and Zillah, each with their own offspring.
But worse still, Lamech is a violent and brutal man, who loves to boast about his killings and who takes revenge not once, but seventy-seven times.
Here in this short passage, we see the best that human beings are capable of - our God-given inventiveness and imagination and we see the worst - our selfishness, our greed and our tendency to violence and aggression.
Human beings are capable of so much that is good and yet too often that inventiveness, that creativity becomes corrupted and used not to benefit others but to make profit at the expense of other people. To give one example - the idea of modifying plants genetically so that they are resistant to pests and produce abundant harvests is good, until big business decides that it will be even better and more profitable if the seeds of those plants are sterile, so that poor farmers in Africa have to buy new seed year after year.
Cain’s genealogy ends with the depressing picture of the murderous Lamech. But all is not lost - for Adam and Eve have another child, a son called Seth and he has a son called Enosh - and the chapter ends with the heartening words - “And it was at that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.”
This passage reminds us of the tension which exists within each one of us, between our God-forgiven creativity and our desire to turn that creativity to our own ends, to use it to control or manipulate others or to obtain power or wealth.
How do we manage this tension?
Simply … by being willing to call on the name of the Lord. For as the Book of Proverbs reminds us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”.
Song: I will call upon the Lord
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Let us pray
We thank you that you have planted within each of us seeds of your creativity.
Help us to nurture that creativity, our intelligence, our imagination.
And guide us in the use of our gifts,
So that they may always be used in the service of other people
And for the good of all.
For we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen