Why did God accept Abel’s offering and not Cain’s? Does God really like a good cut of meat? Are vegetarians less holy in the sight of the Lord?
The difference between their sacrifices does not seem to be in their substance. It isn’t what Genesis says about the sacrifices (meat vs. vegetables), but about what it doesn’t say. It says that Abel brought the Lord “the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions” (4:4), while the text says nothing more than that Cain brought “an offering of the fruit of the ground” (4:3). The text doesn’t say that Cain brought the Lord, “his largest carrot, fattest turnips and juiciest watermelon.” It simply says he brought “an offering.” Cain offered some stuff. Gave God a tomato here, a kumquat there. Abel, on the other hand, brought prime rib and filet mignon, the best, the richest, the finest of what he could offer.
Abel’s sacrifice revealed a heart of faith and a desire to bless the Lord. If you live off of the food you can raise and you take the first and the best of what you are able to produce to God, you are expressing a faith and dependence upon the Lord. You’re saying that he has given you everything, and so giving him the best of what you have is no big deal. And as his child, you can fully expect to receive abundantly more than you offered, because you know that your Father loves you. If, on the other hand, you offer some of what you’ve got to show that you know you’re supposed to, but not because your heart is truly worshiping and truly thankful, will it be surprising when God calls you out on it?
God has been infinitely generous to us in Christ! He has not only given us everything in the world that we have, but even when we rejected his ways of ruling the world he gave us, he still gave us his Son to cover that sin and reconcile us to himself. God’s generosity goes so far as to give up his greatest treasure, his most prized possession, the firstborn, not of his flock, but of all creation! And, if we really understand God’s generosity to us, our hearts will not be able to help but overflow into love and worship and generosity back to God with all that he has given us. We will give our best, just as he has given his best for us.
How is God calling you to be generous with what you have? How can you use what you have been given by God to serve and love your neighbor? Christ himself gave everything for complete strangers who lived on the other side of the universe. What does it look like for us to show a glimpse of that love to those around us?
What can you offer back to God? You can’t make up for your sins through sacrifice—Christ’s sacrifice is the only and all sufficient sacrifice that covers sin. But in gratitude, in love to the Lord who gave himself for you, what will you offer back to him? How will your worship look? Will you offer God “an offering?” Or will you take the fattest portions of the fruit of your labor and give them back to God in obedience and a desire to honor him? Will you express the kind of faith and worship that the Lord seeks?