Offering - Your First Fruits or Leftovers?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, April 4, 2013 0 comments

How do you feel about leftovers? Chances are, that depends on where, when, and how you are getting them. For me personally, cooking is a chore that I absolutely loathe. So, leftovers are pretty much a gift from God for me. Because I don’t like to cook, I will do as much of it as I can at one time so that I am set for my meals for as long as possible before I have to do it again. I love that after setting aside the time to prepare my food on a given night, I can simply walk into the kitchen each night for the rest of that week, grab the leftovers, heat them up, and enjoy a healthy meal that takes no extra time to prepare. Since I view food as something I need and not a source of joy and fun, this plan works for me. But if I have guests over for dinner, especially people I’m trying to impress, there is no chance I’m going to force them to eat something that was made days earlier. In the same way, when I go out to a restaurant and am paying good money for my meal, I don’t expect to be given something they were about to throw away. I expect the best that they have to offer if they expect me to keep coming back!

I’d guess that many of you probably share my thoughts on this matter. Whether you are the owner of the restaurant, hosting others at your home, or just providing food for yourself, your decision on the quality and freshness of the food reflects how you view those who are receiving it. This concept applies to many other areas of life as well, including our attitudes at work, how we manage our physical homes, and how we treat people when we meet them for the first time. The effort and care that goes into those things demonstrates how we feel about them. It started all the way back with the first family that ever walked this earth.

You probably already know a little bit about the story of Cain and Abel, the first two sons of Adam and Eve as recorded in Genesis 4. If you know anything about the story, you probably know that Cain murdered his own brother, Abel and that God mercifully allowed Cain to live while still punishing him for his sin. I learned about the story when I was just a kid in church. The part that I don’t remember being taught and that is still something we miss today is what caused the conflict between the brothers. Believe it or not, it was over an offering to the Lord! That should be a sobering thought when we consider how often we allow personal agendas and feelings to create divisions, even within the Church!

The Bible tells us that Abel’s job was to keep the flocks, while Cain’s was to farm the soil (Genesis 4:2). Both responsibilities were important, and both men gave some of their “earnings” as an offering to the Lord. The difference was that Cain brought “some of the fruits of the soil”, while Abel brought “fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock” (vv. 3-4). The passage goes on to tell us that the Lord favored Abel and his offering but did not favor Cain and his (vv. 4-5). This caused Cain to become angry and sad to the point where he killed his own brother out of jealousy, lied to God and mocked Him, and then complained about his consequences and disappointing life. And it all started with his individual motivation for bringing his offering to the Lord.

So what was God’s reason for accepting one offering and not the other? Well, we can’t be completely sure because the Bible doesn’t make it clear and frankly, God can do whatever God wants and none of us are going to stop Him or tell Him that He’s wrong. But most scholars agree, based on what later became Jewish Law as given by God through Moses (Deuteronomy 26:2), that it was because Cain did not give from his “first fruits” as Abel did. The writer of Proverbs even tells readers to “honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops” (3:9). Now to be clear, Cain was not breaking any laws regarding his offering because they had not been given at that point. However, we must not forget that the Law wasn’t just created arbitrarily. God has His reasons for each part of the Law. Genesis 4 doesn’t tell us that Cain broke a law; it simply says that God was not pleased with his offering. You see, God saw the difference in the hearts of the two brothers. One (Abel) was willing to give the very best and “first” of the fat portions of his flock, while the other (Cain) simply brought “some of the fruits of the soil”. Whether Cain was trying to win the approval of others (which would have only been immediate family members at that point) or whether he was simply following a religious ritual because he believed it would “earn him brownie points” with God, his heart was clearly not in the right place when he brought the offering.

So where do you stand on this issue? Do you give to God whatever is left over after your bills are paid and you’ve met your own needs, or do you offer up your “first fruits” by faith knowing that it all belongs to God anyway and He will take care of your needs? By the way, this concept applies to more than just money. I say that because, while we have varying levels of economic security, we all have the same amount of time in each hour, each day, and each week. For me, my time is certainly the area where I am most guilty of giving God my “leftovers” after I have done everything else I needed to do as well as thoroughly entertained myself with sports and other useless passions. If we really want God to accept what we offer up to Him, our hearts have to be willing to give it up even BEFORE we have calculated whether we will have “enough” time, money, or food to take care of ourselves. In doing this, we keep God on the throne of our lives where He belongs and remain His servants. I challenge all of you to pursue this lifestyle of faithful offerings along with me!