Am I My Brothers’ Keeper? – A Poem

This poem is a bit out of the ordinary for Thankful Thursday, but I wrote it because I am thankful for my sister who inspired it. She wrote a paper for a college class she is taking, and she asked me to proofread it for her. It was a great paper about the connectedness of our world and how we cannot simply ignore the troubles of others because they live in a different neighborhood or a different country. She started with part of Genesis 4:9, after Cain has killed Abel and God asks where Abel is. Cain replies, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” My sister didn’t have a conclusion to her paper yet when I proofread it, and I suggested she use Matthew 25:40 as a great bookend closing to the paper. She took my suggestion.

As I thought about my Thankful Thursday poem, I was going to write a poem about sisters. In fact I wrote one, but it’s really not very good. Then I realized that my sister would be more honored by a poem that highlighted something she cares deeply about than by a fluff poem about sisters being awesome. You can also check out her new blog titled Life as I know it . . . . She’s just getting started and I’m sure she would be thankful for the encouragement.

10/4/11 Update: I posted a link to this poem at dVerse Poets Pub for Open Link Night~Week 12. Check out the other cool poetry there.

So here’s my Thankful Thursday poem:

Am I My Brothers’ Keeper?

“Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Asked Cain, when questioned by God
It was a rhetorical question
Cain knew the answer
Or what he thought was the answer
It was “no” as far as he was concerned
Abel was dead
No need for keeping any more

“Am I my brother’s keeper?”
We ask, as we walk by the homeless man
Standing in a doorway with his dog
Drinking our $4 latte
It’s a rhetorical question
We think we know the answer
It’s “no” as far as we’re concerned
It’s probably his fault he’s homeless
Why does he have a dog anyway?
Why doesn’t he get a job or
At least go to a shelter for help
Instead of begging

“Am I my brother’s keeper?”
We ask, as we switch the channel
So we don’t have to see the ad
About children in Africa
Dying of diseases that are unheard of
In our cozy little town
It’s a rhetorical question
We think we know the answer
It’s “no” as far as we’re concerned
Organizations like World Vision or Unicef
Will take care of the dying children
It’s not our concern
We have Reality TV we need to watch
So we flip the channel again

“Am I my brother’s keeper?”
We ask, as the collection plate passes by
As we sit in our pew at the back
Of the neighborhood church
It’s a rhetorical question
We think we know the answer
It’s “no” as far as we’re concerned
We drop in a $5 bill, that’ll do
The rich folks in the congregation
Can take up the slack
We need a new computer, and
A new car, maybe a new watch,
And the mortgage payment
On our 5 bedroom house is coming up due

“Am I my brother’s keeper?”
We ask, as we skim our Facebook
On our brand new computer and see
A wall post about sex trafficking of young girls
It’s a rhetorical question
We think we know the answer
It’s “no” as far as we’re concerned
We don’t engage is such activities
And there’s nothing we can do to stop it
It happens half way around the world
We’re much too busy with our own lives
Oh look, a new Facebook game to play

“Am I my brother’s keeper?”
It’s not a rhetorical question
It’s a real question
An important question
It’s a question Jesus has answered
The answer is “YES”
The King said, ‘I tell you the truth,
whatever you did for one
of the least of these brothers of mine
you did for me.’
I am my brothers’ keeper
And my sisters’ keeper
We are all responsible for each other
We all need to love our neighbors
And keep our brothers from harm

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”
Matthew 25:34-40 (NIV).

I am a Jesus Freak, and I don't care who knows it. I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, daughter, and friend. My blood family is only part of the larger family of Christ that I belong to. I love to write, especially about my dear Savior.


30 Responses

  1. This is so good, and affirms that I’m making good decisions in spite of my lack of wisdom, or vision, much of the time. Thank you for a great poem, and continued inspiration and encouragement, Linda–you’re wonderful!! God bless you.

    • PS–Linda, I went to your sister’s blog, and I like it! I must, hopefully, make you laugh, though–I apparently live in the delusion that “we” are all much younger than we are: I expected your sister to be 22, maybe 24…

      • That is quite a delusion! I’m the baby in the family and 22 seems like a distant memory. I wish my sister would blog more – she is such a good writer. Thanks for the laugh. Peace, Linda

  2. lovely wonders.

    I believe that your role to your brother may change as time passes, let it be natural.

    bless you and your family.
    lovely topic.

  3. yes we are and too easily forget as we think we’re all disconnected and have nothing to do with what others do…good and thought provoking poem linda

  4. Very true words, as we might see it as a pain in the butt sometimes, but when the shoe is on the other foot, one would hope for the same.

  5. oh but we are…though you are right we dont often see it that way…and then one day we will need much of the same if fate plays its hand right and what then…only one step away…

  6. Strong words of truth. My pastor spoke on similar lines a week ago, from Jesus’ words to Simon “Do you see this woman?” So often we do not allow our eyes to see a need right in front of us, let alone those we only view at a distance. We cannot help everyone, but the fact is that so often we do not even help the ones whom God places right before us.

    Lord, open our eyes – open our hearts and compassion – to SEE the need and to DO whatever is in our power – with His enabling – to show His love. We are privileged but we DO have a responsibility.


    • Angela, Thank you so much for your added prayer! I love the call to action – to show true love for those in need whom God places in our path and view. Peace, Linda

    • I don’t know what the problems is. When I click on the link it goes right to her blog. I also linked to it in my blogroll. That might work better for you.

  7. Kudos to your sister for being so politically incorrect that she mentioned the one true God in a COLLEGE CLASS! Way cool and so bold!

    Judgementalism and being our brother’s keeper is a tough one for me. Too easy to judge without even knowing it.

    I will definitely check out her bog…

    • Linda, I’m working on letting God turn my desire to be my brother’s keeper into action. The Lord gets His way sometimes, but not as often as He should. Peace, Linda

  8. Linda . . .this is extremely powerful. May God use it to move us, to help the least of these. To help one another. It’s really hitting me and the tears are flowing.
    God bless you as you continue to write when you are nudged.

    • Deb, I am hoping my sister posts her paper on her blog because it was extremely powerful, too. It was an interesting assignment in that it was a series of shorter essays strung together by a common theme, called a “collage” essay. She could easily post each part as a separate blog post. And following up on what she had written seemed so much more important than the sisters poem I wrote. Not that sisters aren’t awesome, both biological sisters and sisters in Christ, and maybe eventually He will give me a better sisters poem. Peace, Linda

      • Thank you, Linda, I am honored by your poem. You are a wonderful sister and you inspire me daily.

        I was thinking about posting my paper, but didn’t have a plan for how to post it, separate parts would be a good strategy. I have my conference tomorrow and will let you know how it goes.

      • Berta, You are a wonderful sister, too! I do think posting it in parts would be good. When I was first blogging I read a couple of blog tip posts and breaking longer pieces into installments was a common tip. Since your paper is already in parts it would be easy to do. Besides, I’m looking forward to reading how you ended it. 🙂 Peace, Linda

    • Dearest Ann, Don’t take this the wrong way, but if this left you speechless (or wordless), then it must be more powerful than even I realized when I wrote it. In the end, though, it is not words that matter but action – love in action helping those in need. Peace, Linda

      • Yes Linda. It truly is more powerful than you realized …

        “ In the end, though, it is not words that matter but action – love in action helping those in need. Peace, Linda ”

        We had a visiting minister on Sunday. He mentioned many of the points you wrote about! I do not think it coincidental at all … we can do so much more that we are doing but we`re so good at making excuses. If the pain is not on our doorstep we ignore it. It saddens me 🙁

        I have always maintained that there is enough wealth in the world that no one should do without but it is so unevenly distributed, people go to bed hungry while others toss out half eaten meals. I`m sorry but I get particularly passionate when matters like this come up for discussion. I may not have the financial ability to feed the world but I know we can make a difference one life at a time.

        Thank you for sharing this Linda. We do have a responsibility to be our brothers`keeper.


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