Summary: A look at Cain and Abel’s offerings to see why one was acceptable and the other was not.
Two shopkeepers were bitter rivals. Their stores were directly across the street from each other, and they would spend each day keeping track of each other’s business. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at his rival.
One night an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers in a dream and said, "I will give you anything you ask, but whatever you receive, your competitor will receive twice as much. Would you be rich? You can be very rich, but he will be twice as wealthy. Do you wish to live a long and healthy life? You can, but his life will be longer and healthier. What is your desire?"
The man frowned, thought for a moment, and then said, "Here is my request: Strike me blind in one eye!"
One sign of jealousy is when it’s easier to show sympathy and "weep with those who weep" than it is to exhibit joy and "rejoice with those who rejoice."
As human beings, we love to make comparisons. Almost all of our purchases are based on comparisons. One person buys a Ford because of the smooth handling. Another person buys a Chrysler because of the superior design. Someone else buys a Chevy because they believe GM makes a better motor. Whatever the reason, each person buys his/her vehicles based on comparisons with other cars in the same category.
The same can be said for our clothes, our appliances, our food – almost any purchase we make is made after comparing products. We buy based on style, quality, value or price – but we almost always compare first.
The problem with making comparisons is that we take them too far. We have a tendency to determine the value of ourselves and other human beings by comparing one person to another.
How many times have we thought, “I’m better than so and so because he/she . . .?”
You know, as I thought about all of this during the week, I began to realize that there isn’t one thing that I can think of that I do, but that somebody I know does it better. Elmer is more disciplined to exercise, Rich plays better golf, just about everyone I know is more organized, Wally sings better, I can name a hundred guys who are better preachers, and on it goes.
Television puts excellence in every living room, so we see national or world best. This week, if you have been watching, you have seen the worlds greatest athletes competing for gold at the Olympics. The thing about the Olympics is that it proves that only a very very small percentage of the population can be the best at anything.
If excellence comes by comparison, by excelling among my peers than I might as well quit. Ordinary is as good as I am going to get.
You know, the more I have thought about this, the more I have realized how much different God is than we are. The verse in Isaiah that tells us, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.” speaks volumes to this. We – human beings – need to constantly compare. We feel good or bad about ourselves based on how we stack up against others. God, on the other hand, has only one standard. He values everything based on His excellence.
When we think of the story of Cain and Abel, we sometimes picture the scene like this;
Two men – brothers – Cain and Abel
Cain is a farmer
Abel is a rancher
Cain goes out to harvest his crops
As he does, he puts together an offering to God
Abel also puts together an offering to God
He picks out an animal and offers it to God
God looks at both offerings – Cain’s on the left, Abel’s on the right
After considering them both, He chooses Abel’s over Cain’s.
It’s as if God is saying – I’ll take the lamb chops over the brussel sprouts and spinach.”
This is not the scenario. This is not how this story happens. Let’s slow down and look at it. First of all, we are never told that the offerings were made together. Each offering is made independently of the other. In verse 3, we are told that Cain brought an offering from the fruit of the ground. In verse 4, we are that Abel also made an offering – from the firstlings of his flock. Nowhere are we told that these offerings were made together – as if they are in competition. We are simply told that they each made an offering to God.
God, on His part considered each offering – not compared to each other – He considered each offering based on its own merit. As He did, He made this conclusion in verses 4 and 5; “And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard.”