Just because we don’t see arresting manifestations of demonic activity in the West doesn’t mean that we don’t daily encounter spiritual powers of evil. Being culturally conditioned to look for the spectacular blinds us to Scripture’s portrayal of how anger, resentment, and jealousy make us vulnerable to demonic influence and spiritual evil.
Consider Genesis 4:1-8:
Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him (NIV).
Consistent with his pattern throughout Scripture, the Lord prefers the sacrifice of the younger brother (Abel) over that of the older (Cain). The text doesn’t say why, and there may not be a reason beyond the Lord’s way of working that subverts human expectations.
It is likely that the Lord intends for Cain and Abel to enjoy the Lord’s blessing along with one another in the face of this unexpected arrangement.
Cain, however, is angry and despondent. This is a precarious situation because his growing jealousy makes him vulnerable to Sin.
The Lord speaks to Cain and offers him encouragement and a warning. The way of goodness is to enjoy blessing along with Abel. If he goes down this road, he will find blessing.
But if Cain nurtures his resentment and allows his jealousy to grow, he’s in a very dangerous situation. The cosmic power of Sin—an active agent of destruction—is seeking to overtake Cain. He can resist it, but spiritual evil finds its way into a person, overtaking them, through unchecked anger, growing jealousy, and the cultivation of resentment.
The result, tragically, is the first murder.
Paul may have this episode in mind when he writes, “do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Eph. 4:26-27).
You might think that angry people and relationships dominated by resentment are so common that demonic involvement seems outlandish. Goodness, you can hardly call it a church these days without some good cliques, factions, petty jealousies, and long-standing conflicts!
But consider how irrationally we behave when we cultivate resentment. We can’t think straight and our desires for revenge and vindication become overpowering. We become violent and abusive.
Think about the devastating, long-lasting, and far-reaching effects of unchecked anger and jealousy. Communities have been destroyed and reputations have been ruined.
And if you’ve ever had to resolve a complicated conflict where resentments have grown so that people are entrenched in their grievances, you just might begin to imagine that it is likely that evil spiritual powers are involved.
According to Scripture, the demonic is indeed at work in the mundane. We are vulnerable when we cultivate anger and nurture resentment and jealousy.