thinking aloud about Cain and Abel

So we’re continuing to look at Genesis in church and last Sunday we got to Cain and Abel (Genesis 4). Here’s what jumped at me from the text:

Cain brings an offering to God and God isn’t pleased with it. What’s his reaction? He’s angry.

He’s angry that God was pleased with his brother’s offering and not with his. I can imagine the teenage-style tantrum, the slamming of doors and yelling “it’s so unfair” – and I’m thinking: isn’t this the way people sometimes talk about God today? Instead of saying “sorry I got it wrong” and asking God what would actually please him, we go into a huff and accuse God of being unfair.

It seems kind of connected to what happened in the previous chapter – we stopped trusting God and decided we know better, we look at the fruit of a tree we’ve been told not to eat from and instead of thinking “God said if we eat of this tree something really bad would happen to us, so we’d better not”, we think: this looks good [to me, a fallible human being who doesn’t know everything, but let’s ignore that inconvenient truth] so hey, let’s eat.

We stopped trusting God to know what’s best for us. We stopped trusting that he is good, benevolent, loving – and we stopped loving him, which means we stopped really caring about pleasing him. So Cain brings an offering to God not out of love, not out of a sincere desire to please God, but – I’m guessing – out of a desire to buy God’s approval, affection, a pat on the head. And when he doesn’t get what he was hoping for, he doesn’t take responsibility for getting it wrong, he doesn’t attempt to find out how he could do better – no, because he doesn’t really love God, all he cares about is himself.

How come Abel got it right? the Bible says Abel acted out of faith (Hebrews 11:4) and that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6) – I think this verse shows what it boils down to, what the difference was between the two brothers, and between two attitudes that exist in humankind to this day:

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

That’s the choice before us – believing in God and trusting in his goodness, or leaning on our own understanding and remaining distant from God.

God doesn’t stop loving us when we make the wrong choice. He showed amazing kindness and mercy to Cain even after he had murdered his own brother, providing him with a protective mark so that people wouldn’t kill him – even though he clearly deserved the worst. But notice the constant lack of repentance in Cain – he never says he’s sorry for killing his brother, he is just whining about how terrible it’s going to be for him now as a result. Amazingly, God lets this man live – and lets him even start a family! We see God’s mercy in action here, even in the face of man’s stubborn rebelliousness.

If you’ve been living in rebellion against God – take heart, he hasn’t stopped loving you, and he does reward those who seek him. It’s not too late to turn to God in repentance and receive the abundant love he has been longing to pour onto you. Do it now, while there is still time.

(If you don’t have a Bible and would like to look this stuff up for yourself, one of the places where it’s available online is BibleGateway.)

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