Oct 20

Our worship is important to God. How we worship is important to God. That has always been the case, and always will be the case. In our sermons and Shepherd Groups this Sunday we’ll examine this topic. Well, sort of…

When we go back to the earliest worship experiences, we find trouble. Adam and Eve, instead of living in a faithful, trusting relationship with the Creator, chose instead to worship themselves and were cast out of the garden. They passed this weakness on to their son, Cain, who brought a sacrifice of worship to God that was unacceptable. His brother Abel, however, brought worship that was acceptable. And so Cain in jealousy, bitterness, and selfishness, killed his brother.

We get caught up in trying to figure out why Cain’s worship was unacceptable and Abel’s was, as if the point of the story is to worship acceptably. And that is a point of the story. Certainly Hebrews 11:4 brings out that emphasis: “By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.” Worship is an act of faith; to worship unacceptably is to be unfaithful.

Though Abel offered up an animal sacrifice from his flocks, and Cain offered up a sacrifice from the crops he grew, there’s nothing stated that God had demanded an animal sacrifice. Perhaps Cain’s wasn’t from the best of his crops, which is hinted but again not stated clearly. It’s almost as if it’s not important to know specifically why Cain’s offering was not acceptable to God.

1 John 3:11-15 says that Abel’s actions were righteous and Cain’s weren’t. In the context the lesson in this passage is that we should love others rather than hate them, which is likened to Cain’s murderous, evil actions toward his brother. That may give us a clue as to what was in Cain’s heart that made his worship unacceptable. That would be consistent with lots of other passages in the Old and New Testaments that will follow this story.

The truth is, we don’t know exactly why Abel’s worship was accepted and Cain’s wasn’t. But if that’s our only focus we may miss another important teaching here. There is just as much emphasis—or more—on Cain’s response to Abel and to God as there is emphasis on his correct worship. And that is a critical lesson found throughout Scripture. You know, that whole second greatest commandment thing, that whole loving your neighbor thing…

You see, our [direct] worship is not the only thing that is important God. How we treat others is a pretty big deal as well. And that may be the most significant lesson from the story of Cain and Abel. How we respond to God and how we treat others, including as it relates to how God relates with and judges others, is a pretty big deal.

You’ve heard me say that I’ve come to believe two things about God. I believe that God exists, and that I’m not Him. I think Cain had a hard time with that—letting God be God, living obediently and faithfully before Him; and letting God deal with others as He sees fit, rather than how Cain saw fit.

Good thing we don’t have that problem…

Bill Allen

Dr. Bill Allen preached at South Fork from 2005 to 2015. He received a Bachelors degree in Bible from Oklahoma Christian in 1978, a Masters in Bible from Abilene Christian (ACU) in 1988, and a Doctor of Ministry from ACU in 1992. He now preaches at the West Erwin Church of Christ in Tyler, Texas.

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