For many years the story of Cain and Abel has been viewed as a “sibling rivalry” story with a lesson about jealousy. But it has a much deeper, much more important lesson for all – a lesson on distinguishing between religious obligation and authentic faith.
Yes, one brother kills the other out of jealousy but if you spend some time meditating on the story, you unpack a deeper, more significant lesson. One that Proverbs 16:2 explains this way: “All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 4:5 further shows us the following: “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.”
The plot of the story of Cain and Abel starts at the temple/church where they were bringing their offerings to God. Cain brought an offering from his crops. In some versions of the Bible it says “in the process of time.” The Hebrew meaning would be fully translated as “at the end of the season.” This would seem to indicate that Cain brought the last of his crop as an offering.
Abel also brought an “offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.” Abel’s offering was looked on by God as acceptable. It was one of faith. Abel didn’t wait to see how many sheep would be born, nor how healthy they all would be. He selected from the firstborn, while Cain waited until the end of the season.
There was a huge difference between Cain’s and Abel’s view of God and relationship with God. While they both went to church and they both gave offerings to God…their hearts toward God were vastly different. Their outward behavior looked the same but remember, God sees and knows the heart. The Lord asked Cain, “Why are you so angry? Why is your face so 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” (Genesis 4:6-7).
Self note: The Lord does convict us and gives us opportunities to turn when we sin, but we must choose to reject our sin, to examine our heart and motives…….taking our eyes off of others. We are all individually responsible for ourselves.
When Cain ignored the Lord’s promptings to “rule over his sin,” Cain then turned his misplaced emotions of anger, jealousy and rage to his brother and committed murder…
Several important lessons:
Our vertical relationship infiltrates all of our horizontal relationships. Our worship life affects ALL OF LIFE!
Our outward appearance and actions mean nothing to God without a heart appearance that is pleasing to God.
What is a heart appearance that is pleasing toward God? One of humble dependance on God that is free from the need of approval of anyone but God.
The following are a few questions to ask yourself in distinguishing motives and your heart:
1) If no one knows what I am doing (giving, serving, sacrificing), would I still do it?
2) If there were no visible payoff for doing this, would I still do it?
3) Would I joyfully take a lessor position if God asked me to?
4) Am I doing this for the praise of others or for how it makes me feel?
5) If I had to suffer for continuing what God has called me to do, would I continue? OUCH…
6) If others misunderstand or criticize my actions, will I stop? little ouch…I’m really working on this one with God.
7) If those whom I am serving never show gratitude or repay me in any way, will I still do it?
8) Do I judge my success or failure based on my faithfulness to what God has asked me to do, or how I compare with others?
Our flesh constantly clamors to exalt itself. Only when we walk in the Spirit will we not gratify those desires of the flesh. When we give the outward appearance of obeying God but our hearts are hard or indifferent and, deep down, self-seeking…God knows.
WE can fool the world and we can fool ourselves but we CANNOT FOOL GOD.
Encouragement is this…God desires for our hearts to be right with Him. He knows, and has planned, the direction to live our best life – we don’t. He is faithful to show us our hearts when we are sincere about seeing our hearts.
Get sincere today…God will get sincere right back and will give you all that you need to have the RIGHT HEART! I have found it helpful to ask God daily to give me a heart that desires to honor Him with all that I do. While I have stumbled at times, sometimes daily, He is gracious to pick me up and prod me along, sometimes with a gentle push and sometimes with a kick in the pants.
What is your vertical life like these days? Do you have the good news and peace of heart and mind in knowing your vertical relationship is the first priority…..even on days when you stumble?
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh,” (Galatians 5:16).
“When I put God first, God takes care of me and energizes me to do what really needs to be done.” ~David Jeremiah