An opening Bible story in Genesis chapter 4 is that of Cain and Abel, sons of Adam and Eve. Cain is a farmer and Abel a shepherd. Abel gets greater favour for the meat he provides. Cain gets jealous and angry and murders Abel. God challenges Cain before the murder. The challenge is that there is no need for sibling jealousy and invidious comparison because each can do well. But Cain is driven by his jealousy and yields to it rather than mastering it, which according to God he could have done. The resulting murder leads to the famous curse on Cain that he will be a wandering farmer in arduous conditions, but the curse is moderated to protect him from random murder. It’s clear that the story became archetypal since it is referred to by three New Testament writers.
Sibling rivalry is a very common phenomenon and it’s no exaggeration to say that it often brings its own curse. Parents can sometimes be unwise in the way they praise or provide differentially for each of two or more children. Once sown in a young heart, sibling rivalry is hard to dislodge and can have lifelong destructive consequences. The same opportunity is offered to all who face its ugly possibility or reality – there is no need for it since every child can do well on their own terms, absolutely rather than relatively. Such self acceptance deeply rooted rids the mind of jealousy and the hatred it can generate. The story of Cain and Abel doesn’t have to come from the Bible. It could come as any ancient fable and still retain its interpretative power. It is an example of the power religious literature can offer without demanding any literal or doctrinal belief.