Summary: Cain and Abel’s story demonstrates the power of offerings to reveal relationships and invite or reject God’s greatest blessings.

(Thanks to Dr. Roger Thomas for ideas for this lesson from his sermon on Genesis 4: "I Did it My Way")

We began a series on offerings, sacrifices and God’s blessings last week. This morning we will look at the first offerings mentioned in scripture and how things turned out with that. Genesis 4 tells us the story of Cain and Abel, the first children of Adam and Eve.

Speaking of Cain and Abel, there will be a parenting class starting the first Sunday morning in March (Lord willing). Earl Turner is heading that up and the class will be viewing and discussing the Chip Ingram video series and other helpful biblical materials on parenting.

Too bad Adam and Eve didn’t take your class, Earl. Things might have come out better for Cain.

As we begin today’s lesson let’s set things up first. As you recall, Philippians 4 concludes with Paul thanking the church at Philippi for a gift they sent to help him. Paul calls their gift a fragrant offering and an acceptable sacrifice well pleasing to God. Then Paul tells them, “My God will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” We studied several scriptures about that last week. Offerings and sacrifices involve a giving and receiving expression of worship with God. We actually come into God’s presence and share with Him when we worship by giving offerings. Pleasing God and receiving a blessing from God as we offer gifts to Him is, as you know, still a present Christian act of worship. It’s roots go back to the beginning. What happens when we don’t take this seriously? What happens when we are halfhearted about our offerings? What other matters of our lives are influenced here? Today, let’s go back to the first time we read about offerings in our Bibles.

Let’s go back to the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4.

One of the problems with this story is that it can be too familiar. We know it so well we just scan through it as we begin trying to read through the Bible. Today, I want to ask you to slow down and look at this chapter of God’s word carefully. Listen and think about all the relationships. Ask yourself, “What does my offering reveal about my relationship with God and others?”

(Read Genesis 4:1-17)

How many of you recognize these words?

“And now, the end is here And so I face the final curtain. My friend, I’ll say it clear I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain. I’ve lived a life that’s full I traveled each and ev’ry highway. And more, much more than this, I did it my way.” Those are the first words in Frank Sinatra’s 1968 song. They logically lead to the last lines:

“For what is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught. To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels... The record shows I took the blows and did it my way! Yes, it was my way!”

Those words describe Cain’s life pretty well. Instead of following God’s way, Cain did things his own way. “For what is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught. To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels... The record shows I took the blows and did it my way! Yes, it was my way!”

Notice that after Cain leaves the presence of God there is no more mention of any of his offspring ever bringing an offering to God again. They are all doing things their own way. Like the repeated phrase in the book of Judges: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

One of the powerful things about the worship of offerings is that it makes us evaluate our faith and love for God like nothing else we do in worship.

The first 79 words of Genesis 4 rush us along from Adam and Eve as single parents to their first two sons, their occupations and their coming to worship God with offerings. How many years and events are skipped over in those handful of words? Cain seems to already be married, Abel also appears to be grown and occupied with shepherding flocks. There are other sons and daughters of Adam and Eve who also are old enough to be a threat to Cain for killing his brother. None are mentioned by name.

Cain and Abel come to worship God with an offering. How did they know what to do? Probably Adam and Eve taught them. We don’t know, but that makes the most sense to me. Are you teaching your children about the importance of offerings? Are you instructing them in the will of God so that they can come with acceptable and pleasing offerings as they worship God? Do you tell them how offerings are not optional in our worship? What happens when we decide to worship doing it my way instead of God’s way?

How often do you hear the complaint, “I don’t get anything out of church?” I wonder how many of those who say that are putting anything into church. And if they are, I wonder how many have a close relationship with God? Notice that both Cain and Abel knew whether or not their gifts were acceptable to God. They knew. Abel’s offering is acceptable. Cain’s is not. We are not told exactly how God revealed this to them, but we are told of Cain’s reaction. He was mad. It was written all over his face. I can just imagine... maybe Cain has been thinking, “Why does God want me to give my hard earned crops to Him?” He doesn’t need them. He’s got it all! I have to work and sweat for all I get. Life is hard! He won’t let us go back to Eden and yet He expects us to be thankful? Huh! God wants too much! I’ll bring him some crops alright, and I hope he’s happy with it!

Now that’s just imaginary, but Cain’s response to God’s rejection of his offering is very much like that. Cain has a terrible attitude! Instead of humility, there is pride. Instead of love for God, there is selfishness. Instead of honesty and obedience, there is lying and rebellion. Isn’t it interesting that these show up in the worship of offerings? How we worship with offerings reveals much about our relationship with God.

Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount: “When you bring your gift to the alter and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there at the alter. First, go and be reconciled with your brother, then come and offer your gift.” Our offerings are not pleasing unless we are working toward peace in our relationships.

When we have a problem with our offerings we will have a problem with our relationship with God, but it won’t stop there, it will spill over into our relationships with others.

What was wrong with Cain’s offering? Some say he should have offered a blood sacrifice. Perhaps, but God’s word elsewhere makes it clear that the most expensive lambs available will not cover for a bad attitude in worship, or a rebellious spirit, or a disobedient heart. Listen to Isaiah 1:10-12. Micah 6:6-8.

I am of the opinion that what was wrong with Cain’s offering is seen in what follows it.

What happens after you worship? Do you leave here having brought a gift of love, praise, prayer, a financial gift, an offering of encouragement and service or fellowship to others and not experience God’s blessing? If your offering is acceptable to God you should. 2 Cor. 8:1-5 tells of the joy experienced in acceptable offerings.

What follows your worship here is largely connected to what you came here for. Do you come looking forward to sharing in communion with God with the company of brothers and sisters in Christ?

Sometimes we treat the collection as a matter of paying the bills and keeping the preacher off the streets. I appreciate very much the way this church takes care of our staff and our facilities, and that’s important, but your offering is more than that. Your offering is worship. It is a gift to God. It is something you bring to share with God and others that invites God’s blessings and supplies the needs of missionaries and ministers so that we can devote full time to ministry. When done God’s way, your offering invites God to fill your life with joy and satisfy your hunger and thirst for righteousness and supply all your needs. Our gifts and offerings, when acceptable to God are a spiritual experience of God’s pleasure. God is pleased when we draw near to Him and one another to share in this fellowship.

Cain missed all of that. Do not be like Cain. Abel is in glory with God today. His righteousness was seen in his offering.

The New Testament commentary on these brothers is:

Hebrews 11:4 says, “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings.” 1 John 3:12 warns, “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.”

Cain’s way of offering was to look around and see what he wanted to give to God. God’s way of offering is to let God look around and tell us what to offer! Remember Abraham and Isaac?

God looks into our hearts and minds and he knows if there is anything standing between us and he says: I want you to offer up that. When we do, we enjoy the freedom of God’s pleasure and nearness and know His acceptance with a fullness of blessing that has no equal.