If you read the Old Testament, in the book of Genesis, you’ll find the story of Abel who took care of sheep and Cain who grew crops. Abel’s offering pleased God, but Cain’s offering did not!
No reason is given as to why God was not pleased, but much is revealed by Cain’s actions.
Not only was Cain an angry and bitter person who harbored thoughts of murder, but after he killed Abel he showed no remorse. When God asked him where Abel was, Cain responded, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Translation: “Why should I care?”
It wasn’t the offering of crops that displeased God: it was Cain himself.
And then there’s Abel. Does God need animal sacrifice? Or was it the intent and love behind the offering that God was pleased with?
God obviously loved both Cain and Abel. In fact, He could’ve struck Cain with lightening for his murderous actions and unrepentant heart. Instead, when He sent him out into the wilderness, He put a protection upon him so that no one would harm him.
God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but he does want us to try. The story would have had a whole different tone if Cain had fallen on his face and fessed up to God and begged forgiveness. But nope, Cain’s not there. I wonder if God sent him off into the wilderness to grow and mature and have time to think and repent over the years: to give him time to regret his evil deeds. I wonder if God was letting Cain know, “Cain, you have some serious growing to do! Why, your heart is crustier than a crab and smaller than a raisin! – I’m sending you into the wilderness for your own good!”
Is this story just an Old Testament story that has no relevance for present day people?
I often ponder the following phrase from the Castilian Poet: Antonio Machado: “Write slowly and carefully. Doing things well matters more than doing them.” http://www.armandfbaker.com/translations/biography/final_solitude_3.pdf
After studying the story of Cain and Abel, I could add to Machado’s phrase, ‘Where is your heart while you’re doing your work, your deeds of service, while you’re living your life? Do you have a great big loving heart? Or is your heart full of dark, angry, or even murderous thoughts? (Think about current wars and politics!)
Imagine 2 hosts. One is bitter, dark, and angry compared to the other who makes the same meal with a great big loving heart and eager to please those who will eat it? Without judging, whose table would you prefer to sit at?
Much like Cain and Abel offered the fruits of their labors to God (like people who Tithe in modern day times) you can also offer your work itself to God. In fact, there are many in this day and age who offer their work to God. One such person was St. Josemaria Escriva “An hour of study… is an hour of prayer,” wrote St. Josemaria Escriva. He believed that you could turn all the events of your life into opportunities to love and serve God…
If you think about it, duty requires us to work even though very often we’d rather be doing other things like sitting on the beach sipping margaritas. Work is a sacrifice, an offering that can be greatly pleasing for God. Through work we better our society and please God. Imagine a kind nurse who eases your stay at a hospital; a knowledgeable doctor who operates and cures you; a mother who cares for her newborn; or a CEO of a company whose business savvy creates many jobs for people so that they can support their families. Our work matters.
Do you ever feel like Cain? Do dark thoughts plague you? What to do? It’s not enough to attempt to pluck out the darkness within you. It’s imperative to replace the darkness with new good thoughts. It takes practice. It takes prayer. It takes reading the Gospels and other good books that will teach you to fill you mind with better things, and create in you a heart like Abel’s.
It takes work and time. Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t start out with his muscular build. He worked hard on it for years. It may take years to change your heart and mind, so it takes patience and fortitude. But a God centered life is worth it. God understands us. We are his beloved children. Be assured, if we are willing, He will help. In fact, He will be our number one fan!