3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. 4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his coffering: 5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
This account doesn’t give an explanation for why God respected Abel’s offering but not Cain’s. Several theories have been made, each seeming credible in their own way, but there is no telling which—if any—of them are the actual real reason why. And I don’t think it really matters.
As I have mentioned before, what is useful to me is how this story resonates with similar experiences of my own life. I ask myself what it teaches about me, more than what it teaches about Cain. And this account reminds me of how I used to make sacrifices of time and energy to try and offset all the wrong things I was doing in my addictions. I was fundamentally warped inside, harming myself and those around me, but devoting hours of service to my church in the hope that I could tip the scales in my favor.
And you know what? It never worked. Just like in Cain’s story, I felt like God had no respect for my offerings. All of that effort and it just wasn’t going anywhere, I was running in place without ever moving forward. And like Cain I felt angry about it. It seemed cruel to me that God just wouldn’t care about what I did. I was trying so hard, why wasn’t He seeing that and fixing me?!
In hindsight, though, it would have been immensely cruel for God to have supported me in that moment. If He had done so, it would have affirmed all my broken philosophies. It would have led me to believe that I really could offset all my sins if I just did enough other works that were good. There would have been no grace in my life, no inviting God to come into my heart as it was now to heal it, no coming to see Him as He really is.
So yes, I have been Cain, rejected and angry, but I know now that when God rejects an offering it is meant only as a kindness to His child.