Wednesday, July 4, 2012

That generosity is a pure fuel to run on

When I first started reading the Bible as a child and came across Cain and Abel's story, it didn't impress me much. It seemed to me that God's attitude was petulant and demanding. I'd always been taught not to turn my nose up at any present because it's the thought that counts. For God to accept Abel's gift but reject Cain's upset me. I imagined Him in the clouds with arms folded, chin tilted, complaining, "You didn't give me a good enough present." Well, okay, because He's God, He can get away with attitudes and behaviour which is unacceptable for us.Needless to say, it didn't make me feel loving toward Him.

Kids left to themselves with Bibles can get into all sorts of theological tangles. Years later, I started figuring things out and making new connections. It wasn't as if God really badly wanted Cain's produce offering, as He already owned not only the cattle on a million hills but everything else in the world. It was Cain's own heart God cared about far more than his measly offering. Cain didn't realise that generosity is the fuel God's designed to fill our tanks and God didn't want his attitude to get him into trouble.

Basically, holding back and wanting to keep the best for ourselves is a narrow, blinkered attitude that leads us to all sorts of other feelings that shut us off from God and other people - attitudes that Satan and his followers have long been renowned for. God wanted to shield Cain from heading off in a direction of priorities that only bring people misery. Living in a selfish, grasping, "Me first" type of way is like trying to run our tanks on the wrong sort of fuel.

We are made in God's image and in reality, He's the opposite to that idea I got from the Bible in my childhood. He's generous and loves to give lavishly. I guess Cain's story is really a good reminder that nothing is just given to us by God for our own sakes, including those things we call our 'gifts' meaning our aptitudes and talents. Their purpose is so we can widely use them to bless God and other people.

God told Moses that He'd given Bezalel and Oholiab all sorts of 'gifts' in the fields of carpentry and artistry so that they could put their skills to work by building the Tabernacle. Their skill was plainly for the benefit of God and everybody and not just so that people could tell them, "Well done, you guys are good."

I think Cain's story is an ancient reminder that we're happiest when we're working with generosity as our motivator. It's all tied in with that reminder I've heard often, that we're intended to be God's hands and feet in the world through what He's given us. You might have come across something like this too.

"I wanted to ask God why there's so much misery, lack and suffering in the world, but I was afraid He'd ask me the same question." I like to think that what do, which includes writing, homeschooling, even house cleaning, is all done with generosity at its heart. Sometimes when I'm depressed or grouchy, it only takes a moment to figure out that the reason is because my attention has veered to think too much of myself and what I'm getting for my efforts.


  1. I remember feeling much the same way the first time I read about Cain and Abel. I didn't think it was fair, either. "Poor Cain!" It wasn't until I was older that I, too, realized the real issue. Using our talents to help others is something I need to teach more often to our kids. A good reminder - thanks! - Kate

  2. Paula, I love how you seem to get the same feelings I do from various Bible stories!

    I remember being told as a young 'un that the reason Cain's offering wasn't acceptable was because it wasn't a blood offering. Nowadays I think whoever told me that maybe had their theology tangled? Because of course now I realise it's about giving God the firstfruits/best.

  3. Thanks ladies,
    It's quite an eye-opener when it finally dawns on you, hey?


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