How Do You Look?
…but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.
If you attend a baseball game, what is your countenance? If you go to a wedding, what is your countenance? What is your countenance at a board meeting or on vacation? Is your countenance different at a shopping mall versus fishing on a boat?
We do not use the word “countenance” every day, but we sure do show it. Many people will comment about our countenance without using the word. They say, “He sure doesn’t look himself today” or “She looks so happy about something.” As a result of a person’s countenance, we will either engage in a conversation with them or wait for a “better time.” How would you have responded to Cain if you were to have seen him on the day described in Genesis 4.5?
Cain’s countenance fell. That does not mean it literally came off of him. His countenance had an appearance. His was a sad expression. It was not a good day for Cain. Now, was he responsible for the way he looked? Was he supposed to look happy when he was really sad? Did he look that way all the time?
At times, when people are focused on their work, duties, or responsibilities, their countenance is serious, sober, or stern. It is not that they are mean people, They are just really, really intent on doing a job well. People play music with the same intensity. Judges, policemen, and doctors do their work with the same measure of concern. There are few smiling faces when a difficult or serious matter needs attention.
With Cain, his countenance came from God’s response to his offering. God rejected it. It was not right. As a result, Cain’s countenance fell. He was disappointed. Was he disappointed God did not approve of his sacrifice, or did he knowingly not offer what God wanted thinking God might accept it? Cain’s countenance fell because God had a specific type of worship in mind that Cain did not follow. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice of faith (Hebrews 11.4), not Cain’s sacrifice of something which he wanted and cost little. Just because we like a sacrifice does not mean God does. As a result, a countenance fell that day.
Every generation has someone with an idea about worship. They have a notion God will accept a new form, a new way, or a new movement in worship. Matthew 7.22-23 makes it clear that God does not accept every whim of worship we create: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.”
Can was angry when he experienced God’s disapproval. It was his sin. It was his choice to do as he wanted. Like many whose sacrifice or worship is unacceptable to God, his countenance changed. Sadness came all over his face. He was not smiling. His face was reflecting his feelings. He was not a pleasant person to have a conversation with at that moment. Would you be?
Have you ever talked with an elder? Have you had a meaningful conversation with a preacher? Could you sit still and talk with an older brother or older sister in Christ. If not, is it because of their countenance? Do they always “look angry?” Because of the way they look, are you scared to say anything to them for fear of how they will respond to your comment or question?
Looking happy while singing, teaching, or talking can always ease and lift the spirit of those around you. Your countenance does speak something about you without you saying one word. It either says, “Let me alone” or “Let’s talk.”
We must know our countenance is a choice. Whether we have received bad news or good news. Whether we had an accident or everything is going well. If the sun is shining or the rain is falling. If we lost our job or were hired at a new job. Every day’s countenance is OUR CHOICE!
No doubt about it, there are serious and sober moments in life, whether it is the work of the Lord or attending a funeral service. The question is, what if someone noticed my countenance, and they took a picture and showed it to me? Would they want to be engaged in the same thing I was doing? Would they walk away thinking, “He/she does not like this job or being a Christian?”
Keep this in mind: Your countenance does not have to look like someone else’s. If their forehead is wrinkled, yours does not have to be. If they are smiling all the time, your mouth does not always need to be turned up. Although we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (Romans 12.15), some people give a fake countenance. They may be happy to be alive or smiling because they do not want you to know the real story. They may be sad because they have nothing for which to be happy. Grumpy and dumpy you do not have to be. Bubbly and silly you do not have to be either. Be the real you, not someone else.
Remember this: Whatever your countenance is, others will mimic it. Smiles are duplicated. Tears are copied. Anger is repeated. Frowns are imitated. We may not know what the cause of this countenance is, but we often repeat what we witness in the expressions of others. Think for a moment what a smiling face or a gloomy face would do to you. You reflect the same most every time, though you may not feel the same way. Know this: With a smiling face, people stick around you. With a frown, people turn to the next person. We have a lot of things in life for which to smile and be serious. God knows your countenance is real or fake regardless of what others see in your face. Make your countenance real. If you consider all God has done for you, regardless of the evil and sin in the world, as a Christian you will live joyfully each day (Ecclesiastes 11.8).