So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. Gen. 4:4 (NASB).
This is a pretty popular story. Cain and Able present offerings to God, Cain, a farmer, seems to present the first fruits of his harvest to God. Abel, who practiced animal husbandry, brought the first born of his flock. As we know, God accepted Abel’s offering, rejected Cains, and Cain, in jealosy, murdered his brother.
There’s a lot to think about in that particular passage, but there’s one thing that is often overlooked.
In our Christian walk, many of us spend a lot of time serving God. We strive to go to Church. We give to those who need it. We help out at the food bank. We make the coffee on Sunday, help set up the chairs, or lead a bible study. We help folks who need it. We visit the sick. We do a lot for God.
But is doing things for God what God wants?
Cain brought the offering. He did what he was apparently supposed to do. But the writer of the book of Hebrews spoke to the heart attitude. It was Abel’s faith that made his offering acceptable.
“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'” Matt. 7:23. (NASB)
An interesting thing about Jesus’ statement is that he doesn’t say, “depart from me because you didn’t do enough.” It is “because I never KNEW you.” The “knew” here is “GINOSKO,” which means “to know.’ It is not knowing about something, but it is an experiential kind of know. We know our family and our friends this way. We don’t just know about them, but we know them because we spend time with them. We have a relationship with them.
God wants a relationship with us. Doing things for God is great, but we need to do them out of our relationship with Him, and not because we are “supposed” to do certain things. We can’t serve our way to more of His favor. it is not about tasks that need to be done, but a life that needs to be lived.
The paradox here is that if we live a life lived for Him, we end up serving with Him. Tasks that matter are not a way to be a “better” Christian, but an outpouring of the relationship we already have.
Just as Abel’s offering was different than Cain’s, serving from our relationship with Him is different than just doing things for Him.
Something to ponder.