We’re only a few days into Lent and I’m already struck by all the discussion over what people are doing to honor the season. There’s endless Facebook posts about what’s right or wrong. It has got me thinking about the story of Cain and Abel from Genesis 4:1-7:
(Image courtesy of etc.usf.edu)
Without any explanation, we are told that God had regard for Abel and his offering, but none for Cain and his. For some reason, God looks upon Abel and his firstling with high esteem, thus they find favor with God. While we could engage in endless debate about whether or not God prefers shepherds to farmers, or whether Abel made a better fire, etc., I believe God thought Cain’s offering was mediocre, of ordinary quality. It was neither good nor bad, but not really anything to write home about. Why? Because Cain just took something and gave it over to God, while Abel was intentional and gave God the first and finest without keeping it for himself. Abel made a sacrificial offering by turning over the first fruits of his labor.
By my vocation I spend almost all day doing things for God. This includes a lot of prayer, but sometimes it is not until late at night, right before I go to sleep that I spend some time with God for me. I can’t help but read this scripture from Genesis and think that I’m pulling a Cain. By simply giving God some of whatever time I have, I’m making a mediocre offering. Yes, God is pleased to have conversation with me via prayer, but God doesn’t want to be an after thought, none of us do. How much more would God appreciate being the first thing I think of when I wake up? If I am intentional about focusing on God before I do anything else, I’ve made my time with my Lord the firstling of my day. When we begin our day by cultivating a deeper relationship with God, we will have a Christ-like mind for whatever trials and tribulations come that day. The Lord tells Cain that sin is lurking at the door, and we know this. Every day there are temptations and opportunities for us to engage in wrath, pride, envy, you name it. However, I am better prepared and more likely to defend against sinfulness, if I have been refreshing myself with God before setting out into the world where sin lurks at every door. Perhaps I will find, not just my offering, but my days go from mediocre to extraordinary.