Cain was like the person who puts a few coins in the offering basket, just for the outward appearance of giving.
Have you ever wondered why God accepted Abel’s offering, but rejected Cain’s? What exactly was the problem with Cain’s offering? There are some who will argue that it is because Cain brought fruit and vegetables, whereas Abel brought a meat offering. But that hardly seems fair, seeing as Abel was a shepherd and Cain grew fruit and vegetables – they both brought of their produce. Let’s read the Biblical account from Genesis 4:3-5, “At harvest time, Cain brought a gift to the Lord. He brought some of the food that he grew from the ground, but Abel brought some animals from his flock. He chose some of his best sheep and brought the best parts from them. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift. But he did not accept Cain and his offering. Cain was sad because of this, and he became very angry” (Easy to Read Version). Notice that the Bible points out that Abel brought his best, on the other hand Cain just brought some of the food that he grew. Cain’s offering was nothing special, the chances are it was produce that he didn’t want anyway. He was giving because it was expected of him, not out of his love for God. Cain was like the person who puts a few coins in the offering basket just for the outward appearance of giving, without their heart being in it. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver“. Abel was a cheerful giver, Cain gave grudgingly, he gave of necessity, and God did not accept his offering.
There is a subtle, but distinct, difference between what Jesus said, and what Peter actually did.
Another example of giving a second rate offering can be found in Luke chapter 5, where we read of how Jesus helped Peter and his partners to catch a massive haul of fish. A lot of English translations miss a vital part of this account, and give the impression that Peter did exactly what Jesus told him to do; but the truth is, he didn’t – Peter gave a second rate offering. Let me show you what I mean: Luke 5:2 says, “[Jesus] saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets“. After going fishing the fishermen needed to wash their nets, to get all the gunk off of them. This was an arduous task, done at the end of a night of fishing. Let’s continue reading from verse 4, “Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net“. There is a subtle, but distinct, difference between what Jesus said and what Peter actually did. Jesus told Peter to let down his nets (plural), Peter let down his net (singular).
Peter had respect for Jesus as a rabbi, but didn’t think He had a clue how to catch fish.
Why is this distinction between net and nets (which many translations miss) so important? It is important because it shows that Peter did not trust Jesus, and therefore gave a second rate offering. When Jesus asked Peter to let down his nets, the thought that would have gone through Peter’s mind was probably something like, “I have just spent a long time washing these nets and now you want me to put them back in the water, in broad daylight? Everyone knows you need to fish at night, not in the daytime! Then after I’ve caught nothing, I’ll have to wash my nets all over again“. But because Peter had respect for Jesus as a rabbi (less so for His fishing expertise), he wasn’t going to verbalise what he was almost certainly thinking. Peter had respect for Jesus as a rabbi, but didn’t think He had a clue how to catch fish. So Peter took an old net that he wasn’t bothered about, and threw it in, just to keep Jesus happy. But much to Peter’s surprise, “When they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake” (verse 6). The reason that the net broke was because it was an old net. If Peter had used the decent nets that he had just washed, they would not have broke. When Peter called to his partners for help, their nets didn’t break, did they? Peter knew he had messed up, which is why in verse 8 he fell at Jesus knees and said, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord“. If you look in John 21:6, there is a similar account, where Jesus helped his fishermen followers to catch a huge amount of fish, but this time round the net (Jesus said net and not nets, this time) did not break, despite being so full of fish that they couldn’t pull it onto the boat. This time they learned from the previous mistake and did not use an old net.
The temptation is to only give a small amount, not to give too much, in effect to give a second rate offering.
Christians often act the same way as Peter, when it comes to the giving of financial offerings. Jesus said, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom” (Luke 6:38). But the temptation is to only give a small amount, not to give too much – in effect to give a second rate offering. Why? Because we are not fully confident that what Jesus said will actually work for us. Compare this with the widow in Mark 12:42-43 who, despite being extremely poor, give everything she had: “Then a poor widow came up and dropped in two little coins, worth together about a halfpenny. Jesus called his disciples to his side and said to them, Believe me, this poor widow has put in more than all the others. For they have all put in what they can easily afford, but she in her poverty who needs so much, has given away everything, her whole living!” (J.B. Phillips translation). This woman did not hold tightly onto the little she had. Why was that? It was because this widow understood the principle of sowing and reaping. She understood that the little she had was not enough to live on, and so she made the wise decision to sow it into the temple offering – fulling expecting a return on what she had given. Jesus was pleased with her because she gave her best.
Never give God something that is insignificant to you.
Allow me to be blunt with you: God does not want your second rate offerings. He does not want what’s left over, after you have paid the tax man and everybody else – that is not honouring to God. God wants your best. With regards to the tithe, God desires the first fruits, not the leftover fruits. With regards to the offerings on top of the tithe (yes, really!) God simply desires that you inquire of Him before you give. The amount you give is relative – the widow gave two small coins, but to her that was a lot. To other people, two small coins is a pretty insignificant amount, and yet that is a fair reflection of what a lot of people give, week in and week out – two small coins that they wouldn’t miss if they lost them somewhere. Never give God something that is insignificant to you. It may be a fact that you don’t have much money, but the truth is, that’s how it’s going to stay if you continue being miserly in your giving. Start giving God your best, and He will give you His best. 2 Corinthians 9:6 says, “But I will say this to encourage your generosity: the one who plants little harvests little, and the one who plants plenty harvests plenty” (The Voice translation).
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