I’ve always been slightly troubled by the story of Cain and Abel. I feel bad for Cain… that is before he killed his brother. That was kind of uncalled for.
The part I’m talking about is when the two brothers brought their offering.
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
There is more to the story. You can read it here.
Worship involves bringing our best. Between Cain and Abel, Abel brought the “better” sacrifice, which I’ve always taken to mean he brought the best he had, while Cain might have been holding out. When we worship, we should offer God the absolute best we have and not hold back. Okay, that’s an easy lesson.
But what about when the best we have to offer isn’t very good?
When I first read the story of Cain and Abel, I was puzzled. Cain was a gardener and worked with plants. So, he brought plants and the fruits of the ground to God. I like veggies, so this seems like a good gift to me. But God doesn’t “look with favor” on his offering; he “looks with favor” on Abel’s instead. Is God a carnivore? Not too hip on salad? What was it that made Cain’s offering not good enough?
When I took religion classes in college, I learned about the importance of blood sacrifices and how crucial it was to an acceptable sacrifice. It seemed that one reason Cain’s offering wasn’t accepted was because there was no blood involved (this is my simplified understanding). Perhaps he knew better, and that’s why God refused. Like I said, there is more to the story, and the Bible doesn’t really give us much detail on the state of Cain’s heart. He might have begrudgingly brought his offering while Abel brought his with a joyful heart.
All we know for sure is that he was a gardener. That’s what he did. He brought the fruits of his effort to God’s feet. And he was rejected.
I think I understand why he was a little peeved.
Sometimes I feel a little like Cain. Like I’m trying to bring the best I have, but because I’m not doing it like everyone else around me, it’s not being accepted. Like I need a little more blood, sweat, and tears in my worship.
I know this is absolutely ridiculous. But when I’m totally, completely honest with myself, I struggle with these things. These things that I feel I shouldn’t struggle with, but for whatever reason, I do.
I’m not good enough.
I’m not trying hard enough.
If I worshipped like this, then God would accept my offering and I’d feel better about this whole worship thing.
In the very pit of this struggle, on those Sundays when I’d drag myself to church with every ounce screaming internally, “DON’T MAKE ME!!!” I would sit in the pews, feeling very little. I’d listen to the music and feel unmoved. I’d hear the sermon and not be able to relate any of it to my life. Communion would begin, the most holiest of times that I used to love and anticipate every week. I’d still feel nothing. Tears of frustration would sting my eyes, because surely I should be getting something out of this. I’d be afraid to approach the communion table because I didn’t feel my heart was prepared or worthy enough.
So I would eke out a prayer.
“God, I am not feeling anything right now. I’m numb. I’m tired. I’m frustrated. I want to feel and worship and be excited and I just can’t. All I have is this half hearted feeling. I’m trying. I’m struggling. And that’s all I can lay at Your feet.”
And you know what? He accepted it. I realized that that was enough. I trudged myself up that aisle amongst all those happy Christians who were squealing with joy over all God had done for them and I dipped my bread into the juice. I accepted Jesus’ gift and thanked God for the little bitty bit of peace I managed to scrape up.
Sometimes our best doesn’t seem so good, but I believe God wants us to bring that. I truly believe He will accept it and honor it. Some days barely okay is the best I have, and I’m learning that’s okay.
Question: Have you ever felt like Cain?