A Tale of Two Brothers

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?
— Genesis 4:7 (NIV)

The reference is to Cain’s offering of sacrifice and worship to God. This is the first time the bible mentions worship. From the beginning, God has made it clear that there is a right way to worship Him.

Cain brought an offering of fruits while his brother, Abel, brought an animal sacrifice. God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s offering.

While the reason is not explicitly stated, we can read between the lines. Both Cain and Abel knew the proper way to worship God. Otherwise, God would not have said to Cain, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?” God could not have possibly accused Cain of wrongdoing if he had not known the requirement.

The brothers must have learnt from their parents, Adam and Eve, that God required blood sacrifices. Animals had to be slaughtered and their blood shed. Remember after they had sinned, God ‘made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them’ (Genesis 3:21). Animals, most likely sheep, had to be slain before their skins could be used to make those clothes. Blood must be shed for the atonement of sin. That has always been the way for sinful man to approach God.

God did not arbitrarily accept Abel’s offering and reject Cain’s offering. It was based on principles. What are these principles? Both the offeror and the offering must be right. We must come to God on His terms. We cannot come to God on our own terms. There is a proper way to worship God. Failure to understand these principles have serious consequences.

Blood must be shed for the atonement of sin.

Cain worshipped God, but he refused to approach God on His terms. Instead of bringing sheep, he brought fruits. Maybe, it is out of convenience as he was a farmer. If he wanted sheep, he would have to barter trade with his brother, who was a keeper of flocks. Maybe he was too proud to ask. Perhaps, he was lazy. Maybe, he just could not be bothered.

Cain had an attitude problem. He did not take his relationship with God seriously. Reverence was missing in his worship. When God rejected his offering, he became angry. Even when God persuaded him to do the right thing, he refused to heed God’s warning. Instead of repentance, he reacted by killing Abel.

Abel was different. He worshipped God on God’s terms. Abel did exactly as God required. He did not just sacrifice sheep. He offered the best that he had to God – the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions.

The offeror and the offering must be right. God rejected Cain’s offering because his attitude toward Him was disrespectful and he brought the wrong offering. Whereas for Abel, God accepted him because he approached God reverently and he brought the right sacrifice.

We must come to God on His terms. We cannot come to God on our own terms.

You may be surprised to find many people like Cain in the church. These people come to God with a casual and frivolous attitude. They take the grace of God for granted. It is true that we must approach God and His throne of grace with confidence, but that does not mean that we forget to come with an attitude of deep reverence. He is still the great and glorious God who is the ruler over the entire realm of existence while we are just mere mortals saved by grace.

We must come into God’s presence on God’s terms. We must come with the fear of God in our hearts. We must always come in a spirit of repentance. The sacrifice and blood of Christ have opened the way for us to enter into His holy presence, but repentance is still required. The Holy Communion serves as a constant reminder.

One of the tell-tale signs of a truly reverent heart is our attitude toward the weekly church service. Do you attend regularly? Do you come on time? Do you prepare yourselves to worship and receive the preaching of the Word of God? These are basic measures of your reverence toward God. They also reflect your attitude toward worship and your relationship with God.

Another tell-tale sign is whether your take tithing and offering seriously. These are basic requirements of worship. Do you pay your tithes? Concerning offering, do you give the ‘fat portions’ or bones?

Pastors Leslie & Adeline Chua