Focal Passage: Genesis 4:1-15
It was like any Sunday. As I made my way through the sanctuary, greeting people who had arrived early for worship, I reluctantly stopped to check in with the deacons milling around in the back. I knew what was coming. I asked who was taking the offering that day and who would be leading the offertory prayer. They shuffled their feet and looked down until one mumbled, “I will.” The crisis was averted.
The offering was taken as it was every week, and a weekly box was checked. With the monotony of repetition, family financial challenges and lack of clarity in our teachings on stewardship, it is often with a less than “joyful heart” that Christians bring their offerings to the Lord. The story of Cain and Abel helps us delineate very early in the Scripture God’s desire for our hearts to give our best as we present our offerings!
The two sons of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, grew up. Cain becomes a worker of the ground, and Abel becomes the watchkeeper of the animals. When it is time for them to make an offering to God, they make their gifts from what they do. Cain “presented some of the land’s produce,” while Abel presented some of the “firstborn of his flocks and some of their fat portions.”
Subtle differences make a profound difference. Cain presented some of his harvest of crops, while Cain gave the best of what he had, the firstborn and the best parts of the meat. As a result, God joyfully received the offering from Abel but rejected the offering of Cain. Why? Because while Cain gave from his abundance, Abel gave “the best” from his abundance. God wants our best, not just some of our bounty.
Rejection is hard. We become defensive. We lash out. Cain was despondent and angry after God rejected his offering. He was defensive about his actions toward God. He lashed out. He continued in the sinful ways of his parents and took his brother’s life. Judgment was harsh as God banished Cain to wander.
Yet, grace was provided by God providing a simple mark upon him to give him protection as he wandered the earth. All because he refused to bring his best.
As a child, my dad taught me about the value of money. He taught me that how you spend, save and manage your money reflects your character and beliefs. He let me see when he would deposit his check and pay the bills. Without exception, the first check he wrote would always be his tithe check with the words, “The Lord comes first.”
In the story of Cain and Abel, God teaches that our response to God for his bountiful gifts is not to shortchange God but to give our first, our best. He is more than merely a beggar on a street corner with his hand out, taking whatever a passerby might drop in. He is not looking for monotonous repetition and a box for us to check. Rather, He demands our best — our best lives, efforts and gifts. B&R — Lloyd is pastor of First Baptist Church, Newport.