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Pointers along the way #61

How do we judge ourselves?
- Jacob Ninan

Back in the beginning, Cain and Abel, children of Adam and Eve, brought forth offerings to God. Cain was an agricultural farmer and he brought the first fruit of his field. Abel was a cattle farmer, and what he had to bring was an animal sacrifice. The Bible says that God was not happy with Cain and his offering, but He was pleased with Abel and his offering (Ge.4:3-5). It seems to be a bit too far fetched to interpret this, like many theologians do, that God was unhappy that Cain did not bring a blood offering like his brother Abel did. If Cain had brought his grain offering - what he had to offer - out of the love and gratitude that he had for God, how could he have been blamed?

But the Bible says that God was not pleased with Cain and his offering. Perhaps the right way to understand this is to think that God was not happy with Cain, and therefore He was not happy with his offering.

We read that Cain was not at all happy with God's response. In fact he was very angry, first with God and also with Abel. He was so angry that he didn't listen to God's warning and went on to kill his brother.

Perhaps Cain could have explained his anger like this. "It's not fair. What was wrong with my offering? Didn't I bring what I had? How could God be so partial like this?"

But God looks at the heart (1Sa.16:7). He looks more intently at why we do and say things than at what we do. Perhaps Cain brought his offering from a sense of duty rather than from a heart of love and gratitude.

When people look at us, they can see what we do and hear what we say, but they cannot pin us down on our "why." So we can try to justify our actions and words to people even in cases where our motives and attitudes have been wrong. But we can't fool God with that. If we want to be right with God we must concentrate on the inside. Jesus said, "You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also" (Mt.23:26).