The Faith of Abel

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, September 24, 2017 0 comments

by Logan Ames

If you have a sibling with whom you are very close, chances are that you’ve had moments in your life when you felt like you were doing everything right and still got the shaft. You probably felt that your parents favored your brother or sister and that just really irked you. I remember when I turned 16 years old and was eager to get my driver’s license. However, I already had my own car and it had a manual transmission. Because of this, my parents made me learn how to drive stick shift before I was allowed to get my license. Two years later, my younger brother turned 16 and was allowed to get his license right away even though he had no vehicle and had to share my mom’s car. This annoyed me and seemed unfair! Eventually, I got over it because ultimately, it could only affect me if I let it. Plus, there’s always the fact that it was a completely immature view of things.

Most of us grow out of these feelings, yet there are some who allow them to grow into a bitter root that ultimately consumes them. That’s been going on for almost as long as human beings have been around on this planet. Today, we’ll learn about someone who allowed his jealousy and selfish feelings to overpower him, as well as someone who didn’t focus on such petty things because his focus and faith were in the Lord.

Our foundational verse for this series about our faithful heroes is Hebrews 11:3, which says, “By faith, we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” With this understanding of what God was able to accomplish as our foundation, the miracles we need seem entirely possible and our complaints seem all the more pointless. We see in the next verse that the first person mentioned by the writer of Hebrews as one who was faithful is Abel. You can read Genesis 4 on your own and see that Abel is the younger brother of Cain, and they were the first two sons of Adam and Eve.

In Hebrews 11:4, we’re told that Abel’s faith caused him to bring a “better offering” to God than Cain did. Right off the bat, that makes us a little uncomfortable because we are comparing something that seems like it shouldn’t be compared. I mean, none of us would approve of someone sitting and judging one person’s offering at church as “better” than someone else’s. But the NIV translation of the Bible doesn’t give us anything else to go with. Take a look at the same verse here in The Message. It wasn’t just about what they brought to the Lord, because the Lord also knew their hearts, and Abel’s offering was based on faith. If we go back to Genesis 4, we see that Abel and Cain had separate jobs that they did, they each brought offerings to the Lord, and the Lord favored Abel’s offering but not Cain’s (vv. 3-5). The question is, why?

Let me go ahead and put the disclaimer out there that anytime we are trying to dig into the mind of God, we should tread carefully, especially if the answer is not crystal clear in Scripture. In this case, however, we can gain an understanding with a little deeper look into Genesis 4:3-5. They tell us that Cain brought SOME of the fruits of his soil, while Abel brought fat portions from the firstborn of his flock. This may seem insignificant, but their actions reveal a little bit about their hearts. Cain’s offering appears to have been a little more reluctant than Abel’s. We don’t know that for certain, but we do know that he brought “some” of what the Lord provided for him. In other words, he gave God his leftovers. Abel, however, gave the fat portions (considered to be the most luxurious part of the meat) of the firstborn of his flock. This means that before he took anything for himself, he gave the very best that he had to the Lord.

As I said earlier, the Lord knew each man’s heart. So, we can’t say for sure that his favor was based only on the nature of the offering. But this does teach us something about our own attitudes toward our giving. Do we recognize that God has given us literally everything we have? Does that even matter to us? When we decide to give back to him through the local church or in other ways, is it something that we do out of religious necessity only after we have taken care of everything we want first? Or do we offer to God the very best of what we’ve been given because, by faith, we trust him to meet all of our other needs? These are the questions we must answer individually, and how we answer them says a lot about our faith.

You can read the rest of the story in Genesis 4 to see what transpired. In short, Cain is angry and sad about God not accepting his offering. He is given the chance by God to master his own emotions, repent, and choose to do what is right. He doesn’t, so his emotions lead him to a fit of jealousy and rage in which he kills his own brother. The Lord confronts him and he lies, even mocking God in the process. Then he gets a persecution complex and believes that everyone will be out to get him for the rest of his life. We never see any sign that Cain repents in any way.

Cain’s sinful choices began with emotions, which by themselves are not necessarily considered “sin.” God spoke to him at a critical moment when the temptation to act out of his sin was strong and urged him to master that temptation. But Cain gave into it and became a murderer, only one generation after sin entered the world. While Abel is our faith hero for the week, we read very little about him. Why is that?

Friends, doing the right thing in God’s eyes won’t get you much fame or attention. But when your actions are lined up against the actions of those who do not follow him or live by faith, you’ll be an example to others. Depending on the situation God puts you in, you might even get the chance to be a witness to the whole world. Abel was a human being. I’m sure he was tempted to sin just as Cain was. But his proper perspective on who God is caused him to make his faith his first priority. It wasn’t just about what Abel believed intellectually, but moreso about how his beliefs translated to action.

What is God asking you to do by faith? What sins are in your life that you recognize desperately want to have power over you? If you believe that God created the entire universe out of nothing as the Word says he did, then let that faith influence how you approach every area of your life, including giving, resisting sin, and letting God be your defender when someone is jealous or bitter toward you. Let’s learn from Abel’s example and apply it to our own lives.

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