Epistle to the Hebrews (11:4)   Leave a comment

Epistle to the HebrewsIt was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith..” Hebrews 11:4

The story of Cain and Abel is a remarkable evidence that God looks more at our heart’s attitude than what we actually offer. Abel did 2 important things. First he took the firstborn lambs which demonstrates that he chose to give the very first fruits of his labor to God. He did not give old lambs who would have soon died anyway but the firstborns. Amidst these firstborns,  he selected the best of them to offer them to God. He offered the very best of his toil to God. It’s like he gave the tithe of the tithes as we saw earlier. God did not reject Cain because he offered fruits from the soil. No, his attitude was not right and this is why his sacrifice was rejected. Most probably he did not offer the best of his work.

When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift,but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.” Genesis 4:3-5

If we have again a look at the law, the best production of the land was given to God. It was not given literally to God but to the Levites who served Him. The Levites had no possession and God alone was to be their provider. The Israelites had to give the Levites the best of their toil as if they were giving it to God. This included grain offerings as well. The Levites then used the crops and animals offered by the nation to live on. The fatty portions i.e. the best were not eaten but consumed as a “pleasing aroma”.  Portions like the breast were eaten as a feast by the Levites (Leveticus 4, 7). The idea there is that what we considered the best were not to be ours, but given to God even if was to be consumed by fire. God was not eating that meat or grains so was it like a “wastage” in the heart of the people?  The issue was not with the objects of the offering i.e. meat or grains but always about the attitude of the one offering.  Were their hearts aching when giving the best of the best? Did they think in their heart “I have toiled hard to produce, oh what a wastage to burn the best portions to an invisible God!”?

But Abel gave the best with all his heart. In the book of Malachi, God rebuked the priests because they offered defiled and sick animals. They offered sacrifices which cost them nothing. We cannot call an offering a sacrifice if it does not cost anything anyway. Sacrifice is always an attitude of the heart, it must cost you something. Remember the story of the widow’s offering? What did Jesus say?

While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins.“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.” Luke 21:1-4

See how the heart’s attitude is much more important than quantity? God does not need our money or feed on our food. God is omnipotent and everything belongs to Him anyway. Jesus did not even say that the rich gave their surplus but a tiny part of their surplus. It really did not cost them anything. But that woman did not give a coin which would have already been 50%, but she went beyond, she gave 100% (Mark 12:44). Remember that this was a widow who had no husband to provide and she was also poor. But she probably loved God much. Is not it amazing that the poor usually give more to support evangelism than the rich? Look in the church, it is very probable that financial supporters of ministries are not the rich. If it does not cost you something, it is not a sacrifice.

How does faith fit in sacrifices? Think about it. How do you think God will take pleasure in what you offer if your attitude is like Cain?

John tells us :

We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was righteous.” 1 John 3:12

If our motive and heart’s attitude is evil, it is impossible to please God. What we “offer” will not be a sacrifice but contempt to God’s holy name. It’s better you do not offer anything than attempting to show God “That’s how little you’re worth to me!”.  A sacrifice is a demonstration to God of what He is worth to us. Abel took the best he had and thought in his heart that he should not enjoy it but rather give it. Of course that does not mean we should become ascetic or continuously be penitent in our flesh. The idea here is to give God the best things we know we can give. It must cost us something. Once again, that does not mean we are doing good works to try to gain God’s favor, but it rather demonstrates our reverence to God.

The one who is offering the best he had does so with an attitude of reverence. He knows that even the best he gives will not be enough to honor God. But he does so because he knows who God is. He has faith in God. He offers the best he has because he believes God deserves the best. It is with a heart of faith that he offers a sacrifice and not with a prideful heart. Sacrifice is a demonstration of worship to God. This is what Abel did. He worshiped God by presenting the best he had and God accepted his worship. It is not the quantity of lambs, the crops or the money which matters but the quality of what we are offering. The quality of our gifts reflects the state of our heart and the state of our heart reflects how worthy God is to us. It is because of faith in God’s worthiness that Abel offered a more acceptable offering. Our knowledge of who God is will determine the degree of our reverence to Him. If we do not have faith that God is worthy, it is impossible to please Him. Our sacrifices will be defiled ones. Let us therefore adopt like Abel the right attitude in whatever we do to honor God.

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Posted April 26, 2013 by Cedric in Theology

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