"And in the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground.
4And Abel brought of the firstborn of his flock and of the fat portions. And the Lord had respect and regard for Abel and for his offering,
5But for Cain and his offering He had no respect or regard." Genesis 4:3-5 (AMP)
I remember reading these verses years back and thinking how unfair this exchange was for Cain. Here Abel was, the man with the gift for raising animals, and Cain was the master gardener. When the time came to present an offering to God, I always had it in my mind that of course God preferred the meat over the vegetables. Who wouldn't? Most people (with exceptions of course) when presented with a platter of fine meats and a platter heaping with fine vegetables would prefer the meat. I always thought this whole scenario was a little skewed in Abel's favor right from the get-go.
But as time goes on, and I've read more and more in my Bible, I see the little keywords and phrases that are missing from this passage, and I see that Cain was in error here in more ways than one. I notice how Abel brought the firstborn- the best and finest of his crop. Cain just brought some of his crops- it doesn't say anything about how he brought the best or the finest. In fact, when I play this scenario in my head, I can see Cain working the fields, tending the crops, and thinking about how he needs to present a sacrifice to God, so he wanders around and just picks a few things and adds them to the basket. Where I can see Abel, tending his flocks, knowing it's about time to present the sacrifice to God, and searching out best of his herds. I can see in my mind, Abel, loving choosing the best, while Cain just grabs something, thinks it will be good enough, and heads out to present it.
God wants our very best at all times. This very exchanges shows that. God wants our very best from us, which is sometimes something material, but most often, He just wants our full heart. It's like going to a worship service and only half-heartedly participating. When you worship God with all your heart- that pleases Him greatly. But when you sort of worship, letting your mind wander to this and that, and let yourself be distracted, that's not so pleasing.
But there was more to the exchange of Cain and Abel than Cain simply not offering the best. He was missing faith.
"By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks." Hebrews 11:4 (NKJV)
For Cain, this business of preparing a sacrifice to God was just another day on the job. It was just something he was supposed to do, a ritual, so he was going to do it. His heart was not in it at all. Abel on the other hand, offered the best he had to offer- which included his whole heart.
As we head off into another weekend, this is something excellent to ponder on. When we come before God, what are we bringing Him? You know, our Sunday morning church experience can become all about ritual, and just doing what we are "supposed" to do, which could include any myriad of things, I won't go into that. But how often does our communal time before God happen with our full heart? Even with something as basic as thanking God for a meal- it's usually a ritual, that we must say, but really, we just want to get to the food.
Let's give God our whole heart. Simple as that. When we present Him with an offering of ourselves, our time, our money, or our praise, let's give it everything we've got, and load it up with faith. That's what He's looking for, and our desire should be to please our Papa.