"In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
Because of the sin of their parents, Cain and Abel had been born into sin. Thus, a sacrifice was needed to atone for their sin. Cain was a farmer. Therefore, his offering included a portion of his crops. Abel was a shepherd, so his offering was a portion of his flock. But unlike Cain, Abel offered the best of his flock to God, which pleased the Lord.
The problem with Cain’s offering was not that he brought produce to the alter, while Abel brought meat. God was not concerned with the mode of sacrifice. The problem with Cain’s offering was that his heart was not in it. He did not offer God the best of his crops. Abel had brought the firstborn of his flock, foreshadowing the sacrifice of God’s firstborn, and also its fat portions. Cain brought what was leftover of his crop.
After he saw that the Lord was pleased with Abel’s sacrifice, and not his own, Cain became jealous with rage. The Lord approached Cain and warned him about his attitude, noting that if he had given a pleasing offering, the Lord would have accepted it. The Lord also warned Cain that his anger would breed sin, noting “Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Of course we know that Cain did not listen to the Lord. He did not corral his anger, but let it fester inside of him until he acted upon it, thus killing his brother, committing the first murder in history.
The lesson we can learn from these sacrifices is that we must not give God what is leftover. We must give God our “first fruits”, especially in our worship. Worship does not just consist of what we do on Sunday morning, although that is a very big part of it, but includes everything we give to God, whether it is money, time, emotions, or relationships. Whatever we give to the Lord, let’s make sure we give in a spirit of true worship, according to the definition of worship in John 4:24, which says that true worshippers will worship “in spirit and truth”. God has given His people the Holy Spirit, which illuminates the truth, to guide His people through proper worship. To worship God in truth is to worship Him according to how He is revealed through Scripture.
Unlike Cain, we must always make sure we have the proper attitude toward worship. And when we are chastened by God, let us not act in a manner of hatred and envy toward those whom God has blessed, but let us strive to change our heart in order to offer to God a holy and pleasing sacrifice.