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Abel offered a more pleasing offering to God, than Cain (He.11:4). Why was this more pleasing? We may have heard that it was because he offered a blood sacrifice while Cain gave only grain. This is an assumption and not actually mentioned in the Bible. What is mentioned is, "the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard" (Ge.4:4,5). Both blood sacrifices and grain offerings were required later under the Law, and so it was not the type offering that displeased God regarding Cain. What is important to note is that it was not just about the offerings, but also (mainly) about Abel and Cain themselves. Their personal character and relationship with God also had something to do with it.
We see that it was 'by faith' that Abel offered a more pleasing offering to God (He.11:4). Without faith it is impossible to be pleasing to God (v.6). It was possibly without faith that Cain made his offering. What does it mean to make an offering 'by faith'?
It is not, as many preachers tell us, to make an offering as a 'seed' with the hope of getting a hundredfold return! This is like a business investment which is not what is pleasing to God. Since it is that we ought to live and walk by faith (Ro.1:17;2Co.5:7), looking at the eternal things that are not yet seen rather than the earthly things that are seen now (2Co.4:18), faith in God is something that produces in us a way of life. It gives us a relationship with God, and it is from this relationship that we make offerings or sacrifices. It seems to be obvious from Cain's subsequent reactions that he did not have this relationship with God.
When we have a relationship with God through faith, we can see many different things that go on inside us. We see ourselves as sinners accepted freely by God by grace. We know that we don't deserve anything good from God while what we really deserve is His wrath. We are filled with gratitude to God and our response is to give ourselves as living sacrifices -- not wanting to do our own will but His will all the time (Ro.12:1;2Co.5:15). We worship Him not only with our lips (He.13:15), but also with our life surrendered to Him. It is with such an attitude that we give money or service.
On the contrary, will the Lord be pleased if we give money out of a sense of duty or hoping for a reward in return? That is not 'by faith'. If we serve God in order to be seen by men or to receive praise, or to find favour with God there is no faith there. Without a relationship through faith, giving a large amount of money or making a huge sacrifice is wasted with God, while giving a cup of water (Mt.10:42) or just two small coins (Lk.21:2,3) is precious in His sight if it is by faith.
God pays more attention to our heart and why we do things rather than to what and how much we do. This truth must revolutionise our thinking and all that we do if we are to bring meaning and purpose to our life.