What does that mean and why do I keep hearing it?
I imagine some safety man went to church some Sunday and heard the preacher talk about Cain and Abel (Genesis 4). Then he heard the quote, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and decided to take it out of context and use it for his own.
For those that aren’t familiar with the Bible, two things: 1. Shame on you. 2. Allow me to tell you about this story.
After Adam and Eve were banned from the Garden Of Eden, they settled down and had some kids. Cain and Abel were the first two. Cain was a farmer while Abel was a shepherd. Abel brought God an offering of the firstborn of his flock and God loved it. Cain also brought God an offering, but not from the first fruits of his crop. God wasn’t nearly as pleased with Cain’s offering.
Cain became jealous and angry with Abel for doing the right thing while he himself didn’t. He asked his brother to accompany him to a field then killed him when they got there. Fun fact: the Bible doesn’t say Cain used a rock to kill Abel.
After this, God rhetorically asked Cain where his brother was. This is where Cain spoke those famous words: “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” Then God let him know his brother’s blood was crying out from the ground and He cursed Cain.
The quote was Cain being a bit of a pecker while lying to God. The answer to the question is “no”. You are not your brother’s keeper/babysitter, so you wouldn’t know where he is at all times.
Safety men like to tell you that you are your brother’s keeper and that their safety is your responsibility. Though the quote is out of context and actually means the opposite in the Bible, we have to look out for each other. Powerlines are in the top 10 most deadly jobs in the world.
So there’s that. If you didn’t before, now you know where that saying comes from and how it’s misused with good intentions. Look out for each other and read your Bible.