Genesis four says that God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s. And much has been made about the fact that no real reason seems to be given for this rejection.
Abel attended flocks while Cain worked the soil. Some have tried to read into this a reason for God’s preference. Among those that I have read:
Abel offered the first portions and Cain did not give his best.
God clearly wants an animal sacrifice. God is not capricious or random, he makes his ways known when we are to obey. We are not told any stipulations God placed on the offering, so that conclusion seems uncalled for.
God prefers shepherds to farmers. The idea that God has the ability to choose whom he wants to choose. Using this situation as a basis for election seems without basis.
We long so much for cause and effect. If I do this one thing or this series of steps, then God will accept us.
This is simply a way to manipulate God and get what we want. God offers his love and grace before any of us obey. The same is true with Cain and Abel. Although expelled from the garden, they were living under God‘s grace.
Maybe the truth is that we’re not told what is wrong with the offering because there wasn’t anything wrong with it. Both of the offering brought by Abel and Cain are described by the same word (minha) with no apparent difference.
The key to this issue of the offering is found in Cain’s response. “Why are you angry?” God asks Cain. God’s disapproval becomes a mirror from Cain’s heart.
It was not the offering that was the problem, it was the root of Cain’s identity that was the problem.
Anger occurs in us when we don’t get what we want. Particularly when something that we perceive is necessary to prove our value is being withheld. Anger is a symptom of identity issue. This is a common experience for us in relationship, and no different for Cain.
Cain was giving in order to get the approval that was the source of his sense of self. Instead of resting in God’s image, Cain was attempting to find rest in receiving approval.
Right actions, wrong motivation. A classic detour on the spiritual path. Using fruit to feed the root.
This is the same problem the pharisees had, looking good on the outside but dead on the inside.
It is the same problem we encounter when something – whether it be approval, power, comfort, security, etc. – becomes the core of our identity.
Do you get angry when you do not get the results you want or the proper response to your efforts? Why are you offering or serving?
This is a chance to re-center your motivations.
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