The first murder of all mankind. It didn’t take long. Cain and Abel were part of the first family and so soon did wickedness rise up to take a life as Cain slew his own brother, Abel. For something so horrible to happen so near the Garden of Eden and the very presence of God, there must have been something incredibly vile and evil. Surely the Devil himself had something to do with this just like in the Garden. Surely there was a falling out between Cain and Abel that involved a lot of money or a woman…yeah, that’s it. It must have been over a woman. Men have done much worse than murder fighting over a woman.
Of course none of these are true and the truth seems so tame that it is bizarre that it led to the murder of one brother by another. When we read about the murder of Abel, we see the cause was not some kind of great betrayal or deep insult. No, it was offering they gave at church. The Lord was pleased with Abel’s offering and He rejected Cain’s offering. How is it that murder became the next step after this?
It is always difficult to find reason for any person taking the life of another, but for a life to be taken over an offering given to the Lord is beyond comprehension. If there is a reason to be found for this atrocity over something so simple, we might find it later in the New Testament in the book of Hebrews:
By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. (NIV)
Faith was the difference. It seems though that Cain also had faith because wasn’t he also giving to the Lord? But we know from Hebrews that Abel gave in faith and Cain did not. Or at least he did not give with enough faith. The Scripture in Genesis says that Cain gave ‘some’ of fruits of the soil as he was in agriculture. And Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock as he was a shepherd. Why is one gift full of faith and the other not?
We know from the language in Genesis 4 that Cain and Abel were aware of how the Lord wanted them to give. Abel gave the firstborn. Cain should have given the firstfruits. The Lord established a system of exchange when we give the firstborn or the firstfruits. By giving these, it is a declaration of faith that everything belongs to the Lord and He is the Provider of all things. By not giving the firstfruits of his crop, Cain did not honor God as Provider of all things. Refusing to recognize the Lord in this way, he was taking credit for the crop he had produced. Now, it is true that Cain worked the land, but it was God who gave the seed, who gave the rain, who gave the nutrients in the ground that allowed Cain to have what he had. Abel on the other hand honored the Lord in faith that He was the Provider of all things and everything he had came from the hand of God.
The firstborn and the firstfruits also represented the best of the flock and the best of the crop. When we give our best gift, we exalt the Lord in faith as the giver of every good and perfect gift. When we give less than our best, we are not showing faith in the Lord as our Provider. We are withholding from Him as if we are afraid that we won’t have enough; as if He is not big enough to take care of us. There is no faith in this.
Well…you know the rest of the story. Cain lured his brother out into the fields and murdered him out of jealousy over his offering. Cain did not honor the Lord as he should have so he did not honor his brother as he should have. When our faith and honor to the Lord is diminished, then our love for our neighbors, friends, and brothers will also be diminished. How can we attribute the value of the creation if we devalue the Creator.
We live in a culture where the Enemy has spread the message that churches only want our money. But the truth is that the Lord has called us to honor Him with our money according to how much we have. This is taught in both the Old and New Testaments. But when we give, let’s give to Him as if He is able to provide for our every need. Let’s exalt Him as He should be. Not only does He promise to bless us abundantly when we do this, we will also have better relationships. As we honor the Creator, we will do better to honor His creation.
Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine (NIV)
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (NIV)
2 Corinthians 9:6-8