God's People: Cain & Abel

Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.” Next she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the Lord , “My punishment is greater than I can bear! Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.” Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. ~ Genesis 4:1-16

The question that I've always had - more than why Cain killed Abel - is what was wrong with Cain's offering? Why did God like Abel and his offering better?

There seems to be a big gaping hole missing here.

I've heard it said that God preferred Abel's because it was a blood offering. You get into the whole sacrifice thing there. Maybe. But that just doesn't gel for me completely with what we learn about with God graciousness throughout the breadth of scripture.

Perhaps it has to do with Abel's generosity vs. Cain's. Abel brought the firstling of his flock - the fattiest, most desirable portion. In other words, Abel gave his best. Perhaps, the fruit of the ground Cain brought, was merely leftovers.

But more than either of those, I wonder if maybe God favored Abel over Cain because God knew the status of their hearts: Abel's being generous, and Cain's...

Since the fall, the human heart was already vulnerable to selfishness. And now jealousy was in the mix.

And that lurked in Cain's heart.

Of course, he isn't alone.

But it is the end of the story that I think is the main point. 

Despite the reputation God has in the Old Testament for being wrathful and angry, it is God's grace that completes this story. Cain is not killed for his transgressions. God protects him.

But the movement of death has begun. It is a dance that will continue throughout scripture and one that still haunts us today.

Prayer: Lord of Life, heal me from the temptations of anger and vengeance and jealousy, knowing that they lead to death. Lead me instead to generosity, grace, and compassion, knowing that is where life is found. Amen.

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