One of the ways we know the Bible is being misinterpreted is when the theologians (and others) blame God for what is going on, or in the case of poor Cain and Abel, insist that one is saved by “good works” or simply, saved by works, period. St. Paul spent a good deal of time on this topic, even going so far as to say that those who return to a works-salvation are placing themselves under a curse. (Galatians 3:10-13)
The story of these two brothers comes early in Genesis because the rest of history will be about wars between brothers, and then non-brothers and on and on. God expects from all of us a portion of our “increase” that is the Biblical word, to honor Him as the generous God making all of life possible and profitable. Abel brought a present from his flock, but Cain was a farmer and brought some grain. (Genesis 4:1-16)
The redactors have us believe that it was all because God expected a blood sacrifice not a loaf of bread. But that does not match the holy book. God has instructed us to bring of our first fruits. Apparently Cain has no animal stock. and as a farmer and brought the best of that. There is no record that God condemned the offering from the field. In fact later on we read of a bread offering under the Law.
And he was rejected. No, God is not pulling a fast one here. He has not indicated that some form of gift is preferable to another. I would remind those of you reading this now that you may be an artist, or a housewife, or a parent, or an office worker. What you bring to the Lord’s table is the best job that you can do for your employer and for yourself Can you say to God – this is the very best that I can do? I sometimes wonder about people whose only gift to the church is some old clothes for the poor. Gee thanks.
The Bible says the poor need money not clothing, But that is for another day.
Genesis is full of tests. First Adam and Eve get sidetracked. Now these two brothers have a test. Will Abel gloat over his brother and say, “Nah Nah” God accepted my gift and not yours? Will Cain realize that his reaction to being rejected is on trial here?
I’ve had many successes in life but I learned lots more from my failures. I’ve been severely rejected a dozen times, all very painful and sometimes very costly. I’ve been lied about and slandered. One man even traveled to the West Coast to assure someone that I was a liar because the donor had $38000 for him. God remembers this by the way. He will repay.
But back to Cain. Here is his chance to examine what happened. He muses, “Did I do something wrong, or did I just not check thoroughly on what God wanted? Is this a test of my believing God?”
Look around you. Is not a lot of politics “murdering” another – their reputation, their home, their finances – in order to win public applause and recognition? Dan Rather allowed bitterness lead him into revenge which backfired and he was forced to retire.
The Bible says Cain failed this test. Instead of realizing this was his test, he believed it was a competition with Abel. No, God does not set up competitions between his people. We compete against ourselves. Paul speaks of going for a prize, but not against another person, but against his own call from God. Cain looked at his situation in envy and bitterness. The Bible says we are not to allow a root of bitterness, revenge and blame to arise among us. (Hebrews 12:15) But this happened and he murdered his brother.
He failed the Reaction Test. His lesson can be ours. We look at the Bible and think all our tests are what we do or fail to do – our actions. But God wants our reactions to be holy as well. What is yours?