Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Genesis 4:2-8
The story of Cain and Abel has always been a fascinating one, and has given rise to a popular quote about responsibility: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” It has even spawned political cartoons and jokes, perhaps the most famous being the orangutan caught reading both Darwin and the Bible. When the caretaker asked why, the orangutan replied, “I just needed to know if I was my brother’s keeper or my keeper’s brother.”
So, what’s going on in this story?
It’s a syndrome I’ve come to call “Bruised Banana Faith” and it’s something that can easily affect any of us.
The difference lies in the quality of the offering to God. The text tells us that Cain brought some fruit, while Abel brought choice fat from his firstborn.
Abel brought God choice filet mignon, Cain brought a few leftover bruised bananas.
It wasn’t the type of sacrifice that bothered God, it was the dedication to quality sacrifice.
For us, it can be all to easy to present bruised bananas to God in some form.
In churches, we can demand that people tithe ‘to support the mission’ but the church budget doesn’t support mission at all.
In groups, we can urge volunteer service and ‘important causes’ while we don’t offer up anything that actually costs us in some way.
As an individual, we can feel a call to discipleship or mission, but continue to find excuses about how we are too busy.
We say we value our relationship with God, we say we want to cultivate that in real and meaningful ways, but we are often prone to give God our leftovers. We offer up a quick prayer right before we doze off at night, we study the Bible only when faced with a tragedy or serious life ailment, and we only live in true community when it is convenient and doesn’t cost us anything.
The story of Cain and Able should remind us of the dangers in half-hearted devotion. God doesn’t want our leftovers, he wants the best of what we are. He wants the best of what he created in us: our talents, desires, skills, and personality to be used for him and the advancement of his Kingdom.