Cain and Abel
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. Genesis 4:3-5
My current jail Bible study is not my first attempt at working with those in the correctional system. Years ago, I volunteered at a local juvenile delinquent program. I was still struggling on and off with my addiction, but I’ve always believed I was supposed to be of service to God, and so, I volunteered, hoping it would help me find faith and recovery. It was not a great experience. I found it to be an energy-draining chore. When I relapsed and my life fell apart, I had to abandon it in shame. Like I said, not a great experience. Now however, in recovery, I find that jail Bible study vitalizes me, filling me with joy and purpose.
What’s the difference between now and then? Back then, I was trying serve out of obligation and selfish gain. My life wasn’t pointed at God, but rather at myself. I wasn’t living by faith and so, my attempts to serve God were anemic. Now, I don’t do it perfectly, but I get up early up every morning, point my life at God, and try to live accordingly. This has led me to jail, where I find that I’m energized by the service God has given me.
My best definition of faith is this: Keeping my eyes on God while living accordingly. This is where Cain failed in today’s story of Cain and Abel, the firstborn sons of Adam and Eve. Cain raised crops, while Abel raised sheep. They understood that they were meant to bring an offering to God, and so, both brothers did so. The passage seems to imply that Cain gathered his crop, had a big pile, and took some of the leftovers to God. Abel however, knowing that everything he had was from God, gave the firstborn of his flock. He didn’t know he’d have more lambs, so it was in faith that Abel gave his only offspring at the time. Cain lived for himself, giving God leftovers. Abel practiced faith. He kept his eyes on God, lived accordingly, and gave God his best.
My purpose on this Earth isn’t to do my will, but rather to seek God’s will. It may seem that I’m making some great sacrifice in abandoning my way for his, but I can promise you this – I’ve lived as two very different men and I can confidently say that the one who has tried to live by faith, serving God as Abel did, is the happier man by far.