With the coming of spring and summer, we begin planning for the garden we will plant and I start anticipating that first tomato we will pull off the vine. There is nothing like the taste of the first produce pulled from the garden. The first meal fixed with fresh corn and green beans feels like a real feast. Fried squash and okra can be a meal all by itself. The later into the growing season it gets though, it’s not as welcomed. The freezer is as full as I can get it, I’ve canned more than we need and it seems that no one within 50 miles needs another tomato.
I remember one year when our green beans were especially plentiful. I had long passed the 50 quart count of canning. We had given away bags and bags full of the beans until we could find no one else who wanted any. As October began, I threatened my husband with his life if he brought another bean into the house! He pulled the vines up and our gardening season was officially over.
I thought about this as I read the story of Cain and Abel.
Genesis 4:3-8 (NKJV)
3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.
6 So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”
8 Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
From what I’ve read from various commentaries and from what I’ve heard preached, Cain’s offering was not respected by God like Abel’s for a couple of reasons. First, his offering was not the firstfruits. He just randomly gathered some of his produce and brought it before the Lord. It would be like me bringing from my bounty of green beans and tomatoes that I could no longer give away. Secondly, his heart was not right with God. Therefore his offering, even if it had been of the firstfruits, was not acceptable.
I have read this story over and over through the years, but recently I noticed verse 7 and it stood out. When Cain was angry at God for not being pleased with his offering, God questioned him. God plainly told Cain that if he would do the right thing, then God would accept him just as He had accepted Abel. Then He said something I found interesting. “And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”
Because Cain was not doing well, or striving to really please God, then sin was getting a foothold on his life. And as Cain allowed sin to slip into his life, it consumed him to the point of him taking his brother’s life.
This made me really question myself. I’m not saying this to brag, but I have long been a tither and when led, I give additional offerings and gifts. I have no problem doing this because I feel it is what God has asked of us and I am willing to obey. But is my motive right? Do I just give in order to fulfill a requirement, or am I doing it as an act of worship? Then I think about other areas in my life. Do I really give my Lord the firstfruits of my time and talents? Do I really offer a sacrifice of praise? So many times I go through the motions of giving, of participating in worship services out of habit. I read my Bible and have a quiet time hurriedly because it’s expected. This is the reason verse 7 hit me so hard. If I’m not serving and praising with ALL of my heart and soul, then that means part of my heart is inclining toward something else. If I am even half-heartedly going through the motions of worship, then that means that I may be allowing sin to creep close to the door of my heart.
If we allow sin to get close to our hearts, we are giving the evil one room to work. We must strive to worship and be devoted to the Lord with all of our heart and soul. Remember what Christ said was the greatest commandment.
Mark 12:28-34 (NKJV)
28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”
29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
I want to be like the scribe that Jesus said was close to God. If we will love our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, God will see and know that we are doing much more than just going through the motions of worship. We will be offering Him our firstfruits. And as we strive to do this, then we are also keeping sin from creeping up at our heart’s door.