Usually by reading the Bible we can get a pretty direct interpretation. However there are times that we need to dig a little deeper into the passage. I’m thinking about the story of Cain and Abel. They were brothers parented by Adam and Eve. Cain was a worker of the soil while Abel was a keeper of the flocks. Both were much needed and necessary. When they both made an offering to the Lord Cain brought his vegetables he had grown while Abel brought his firstlings of his flock and of the fat therof. And Jehovah had respect onto Abel and his offering but to Cain and his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth and his countenance fell. Genesis 4 verses 3-5. To help me understand what that last sentence meant I looked up the words wroth and countenance. Wroth means intensely angry, highly incensed, Wrathful. Other synonyms of wroth include fuming, hot, furious, and outraged. Countenance has to do with a persons face or facial expression. So Cain’s facial expression changed as he became angry. Now I can see the picture of someone who is upset, mad , and furious and his face telling the same story even without words.
I used to think that Cain’s offering wasn’t respected because it was not a blood offering. We know in the old testament the sacrifice of blood covered people’s sins. However nowhere in the passage is this offering described as a sacrifice. This was an offering unto God. Logically God wouldn’t have expected Cain or Abel to offer something they didn’t have. Cain was a worker of the soil so what he had to offer was the vegetables he grew. The other misconception I had after my blood sacrifice theory that went up in smoke was the thought that Cain didn’t give his best vegetables. We know that Abel gave his best because the passage suggests it. But it doesn’t say anywhere that God was not happy with Cain because his offering was rotten or worm infested or he gave the smallest worst ones. On the contrary I believe that Cain gave his best too.
We are not told why Cain’s offering was not respected. However the passage doesn’t just mention his offering. It states that Cain and his offering were not respected. It also states that Abel and his offering were. Now maybe we can find some clarity there. Could it be that both offerings could have been respected and the real answer lies within the brothers? Could it be that because Cain’s heart was not in the right place his offering was viewed as bad too? Cain’s offering was something that Cain had to work for. He had to til the soil and do all of the hard labor that it takes to grow things. Abel’s offering had nothing to do with Abel. He just offered something that God had given to him. In reality Cain’s offering was given to him too but could it be that Cain was proud of what he did? We know that God looks at the heart in anything we do. That is why the poor widow who only gave one small coin in the new testament was commended by Jesus of giving more than all of the other people who were giving. While the others it was explained were giving just a portion of what they had the poor widow gave all that she had. It was a heart gift that went way beyond it’s man made monetary value.
To further the argument that Cain’s problem was a heart thing instead of the actual offering that he gave I offer this. Cain was truly disappointed that his offering was not accepted. It states that his head which was probably raised in pride for the things he had grown was now dropped in sorrow. In life we are going to have disappointments and it is OK to feel that way. However it is never OK to be bitter and worse to stay that way. It doesn’t state anywhere that Cain asked God why his offering wasn’t accepted. Wouldn’t you think that it would be the logical question to ask especially if you were trying to please God? Cain did not ask the question because it was obvious to him what the answer was.
God knew Cain’s heart so it was no surprise to him how Cain reacted. Cain reacted in anger and hate. Have you ever heard it said that it doesn’t matter what happens it is how we react to it that counts? In this example we can almost see through Cain by how he reacted. He was furious and it mirrored what was on the inside. It wasn’t enough for him to be upset though. He could have asked God how he could make it right but he wasn’t interested in that. He was upset because God knew the condition of his heart which went far beyond the offering that he gave.
I’m going to draw a few conclusions from the passage based on human nature and the evidence of the story. Cain did not love his brother Abel. To him it was a competition of who did the most important thing. Cain thought for sure that God would be more pleased with the offering he worked so hard to get. In his mind Abel job was just leading animals around. Cain felt like his offering was special and he was proud of the results that he was able to produce.
Isn’t that the way of the world today? In our world a persons worth is associated with what he or she accomplishes. This is the Cain way of thinking and is totally against God’s way. In God’s way it is a matter of the heart. Why do we do the things we do? Do we do things to get praise from the world? If Cain had seen the error of his ways and had been sorrowful and had repented I am sure that God would have been pleased. However that was not Cain’s attitude.
So what does Cain do? He is so bitter and angry that he calls his brother to come into the field with him. I contend that this was not the beginning of this hatred. I don’t think that Cain loved his brother from the start. In fact I think he hated his brother from the beginning. If he loved Abel he would have been happy for him that God accepted his offering. On the contrary his anger showed how selfish he was. In his mind it was Abel’s fault that God did not accept his offering. This hate had probably built up over a long period of time and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Abel probably thought that his brother wanted to discuss something. Never in his heart did he think his brother meant harm. I believe that Abel loved his brother and had a loving heart. Cain murdered his brother and buried him. Later God asked Cain where his brother was? Cain answered that he didn’t know…”am I my brothers keeper?”, he stated.
The fact is we are our brothers keeper. We should be concerned about others because we love them. God is the only one who can put that love into our hearts. He looks into our hearts for our true motives. Our accomplishments in this life mean nothing without God. Cain didn’t come to the conclusion that everything that he grew was a gift from God. He was in the human mindset that if he worked hard he would produce results. God was not in his equation. Cain’s heart was filled with hate and felt he was the one who determined his own success. That is called the Cain way and is totally against the word of God. When we accept Jesus into our lives he puts a loving spirit inside. Now we start doing things in love not because we have to but because of the desire to do so. Now there is a new purpose in our lives when we realize that everything that we have or ever will be is a gift from God! Everywhere we look we see the Cain way in action. It is the attitude that we are our own God and we control our success. If you feel that way come to God and he will get down to the heart of the matter!