By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
My Brother’s Keeper
A Few Frank Words 8-23-23




Genesis 4: “Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen, your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!”

Are we our “brother’s keeper”? Really? And if that is true then how do I go about it? I will illustrate my thinking on his idea by using a dilemma I used to have. I am a bit of a sucker for a homeless veteran begging for pocket change. My dilemma is I am a Vietnam veteran and so for veterans that are homeless I am likely to reach into my pocket and drop my spare change into the cup. I would think, “there but for the grace of God go I.” And here is my quandary. Statistically speaking, the odds of the vet buying something helpful like food or clothing or shelter are not good. So, if a homeless vet is going to take the money, I gave him (or her) and drink up or shoot up, why am I hastening the death of a veteran?

After wrestling with this issue for years, here is where my logic and scripture led me. It boils down to stewardship, or a characteristic of stewardship. Stewards are responsible people. To be a steward, which God has called us to be, we must be accountable for the actions we perform. In the case above, God calls me to be generous to a fault. God calls the veteran to be accountable for how the vet uses the generosity (Luke 16:1-9; Matthew 25:14-30).

That is part 1, responsibility. Responsibility implies accountability. We all need to be accountable for our actions. And in the long run, God will also hold us accountable. (Matthew 25:35-46). We cannot consider ourselves responsible if we do not hold ourselves accountable for our actions. Adam and Eve learned that lesson right away.

There is also the characteristic of stewardship called free will. The second greatest gift from God, after grace, is the ability to choose. To exercise our free will. We happen to live in a country that supports and defends free will and so we are doubly lucky. While God intentionally gave us free will not every government and every country supports the notion of free will. Free will provides us with the wherewithal to do whatever we want and whenever we want to do it. The check on free will is responsibility. There are always choices to be made daily. Some choices are labeled “good” and some choices are labeled “bad”.

So now the issue of “am I my brother’s keeper” has become complex. How does one know good choices from bad choices? The next greatest gift God gave to all of us is our intellect. The ability to reason using logic is a very effective tool. In most cases, when faced with a decision one would use reason to select a course of action. How can we tell a good decision is a good decision and not a bad decision? That, my readers, is done by experience and a moral compass. An old friend of mine would tell me that experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you expected. I suppose that is where that old saw “the older you get the wiser you get” springs. Experience infuses our thinking process, and the more we experience the broader and more complete our thinking process becomes.

However, the last real characteristic of a steward is a moral compass. Everyone has a moral compass by which all decisions arise. Said in a different way, there are moral people, immoral people, and amoral people.

Amoral folks have no moral compass at all. Decisions come from logic and experience but do not recognize the concept of good or the concept of evil. They do not have a moral compass. There is a void where the understanding of good and evil should be. Good and bad have no meaning. Decisions are random and unpredictable.

Immoral people do have a moral compass. There is some form of spiritual base. These folks have a spiritual base, but they willingly miss true north. This group believes in what is good and proper but chooses to follow what is bad, wrong, or evil. For clarification, I am not talking about a general class of sinners, for we are all sinners in God’s sight. Rather the people who choose evil consistently, looking for an “edge”, a way to get over on the rest of us, the ones who consistently think with their ego instead of their soul.

Then there are those who have a strong moral compass and who understand what true north is and what it means. We have all the requisite tools to make good decisions all day every day. True, we fall short, but through the other characteristics of stewardship we recognize our faults and move quickly to fix those and return to the path of true north. It is unfortunate but we sometimes stand “too close to a random electric field” and our compass goes sideways as do our decisions. And this is the reason my moral compass is based on Christianity. The Christian God is a loving and merciful God that never runs out of forgiveness no matter how lousy of a decision I make.

So, are we our brother’s keeper? Yes, I believe we are, but we must respect the gifts God has given each one of us. We cannot decide that another of God’s children should be a this or a that. A Christian or Moslem, or Jew, or whatever denomination or religion that suits us. We dare not decide that we are better than others or that we make all the right decisions while others falter or fail.

The decisions I make are the decisions that create and maintain my relationship with my God. And ultimately are the decisions I must account for with my God.

How then can I be my brother’s keeper? With a huge amount of compassion. By loving my neighbor as I love myself. So, in the long run I will give to those who have needs to the extent I can, realizing that that is exactly what God calls me to do. That is my responsibility. To those who receive it is their responsibility to use the gifts wisely. I am not to judge, and I am not here to tell them what to do. And I am certainly not here to tell them how to live their lives. That is for them to decide.


Francis (Frank) Remkiewicz is an area resident and contributes a monthly column focused primarily on faith and religion. He can be reached at Opinions expressed are those of the author.