“…Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor…” (Genesis 4:2-5, NIV).
I must admit that I’ve always been a little troubled by the Bible story of Cain and Abel. Why, for example, did God look so favorably upon Abel’s sacrifice of livestock from his flock and so negatively toward Cain’s offering of produce? Does it simply have to do with God’s dislike of vegetables, or is there something more to the story? And what does this say to me personally?
Perhaps you remember the story of these two brothers, these sons of Adam and Eve. Cain became furious at God’s lack of appreciation with his sacrifice and took it out on Abel, killing him in a fit of rage one day. God would confront Cain concerning his sin, and, although Cain would be punished, God would still offer him protection in the days ahead.
So, let’s get back to the question at hand. What was so special about Abel’s offering compared to that of Cain? You may notice that, according to the text, what Cain offered God was essentially his left-overs. We read that Cain gave God “…some of the fruits of the soil…” (Genesis 4:3, NIV). It was as if Cain’s offering was mostly an afterthought. Compare that to Abel’s offering of “…fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock…” (Genesis 4:4, NIV), and you can see that Abel’s offering was sacrificial and given out of reverence for God. Abel’s offering was not necessarily greater in terms of quantity, but it was greater in quality.
So, what does the story of Cain and Abel say to me personally? I think it teaches me that God wants my best, my first-fruits of time, treasure, and talents. He desires that I would be sacrificial in how I live and generous in what I give. He, after all, gave me the very best of himself – even offering his own Son, Jesus. How great a sacrifice that was for me!