Attitude or Offering: Leadership Lessons from the Life of Cain

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In my past two articles, we have explored leadership lessons from the life of Cain. You can read them here and here. Have you wondered why God didn’t accept Cain’s offering? The passage in Genesis does not tell us. Instead the passage reads, “The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look on with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.” (Genesis 4:4-5 NIV).

So, what went wrong? Why doesn’t the Scripture tell us what Cain did that was not approved of by God? Here is my theory: perhaps the lack of an answer to this question is an answer in and of itself. Maybe God’s displeasure with Cain was not about the offering itself but instead with the internal spirit with which Cain offered his sacrifice.

We get a glimpse of this in Cain’s immediate reaction. Cain responds with immediate anger towards God. We don’t see Cain as remorseful or asking God for forgiveness. Instead, Cain becomes angry immediately. Could Cain’s attitude be what God was displeased with? In in the Great Faith chapter of Hebrews 11, the author writes, “By faith, Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain.” So, what made Abel’s sacrifice better? The answer seems to be the faith in which it was offered.

The lesson for us as Church leaders is simple but profound. It is not about what great programs our church is offering, the amazing ministries that are happening, or how much our church is giving to missions. All of that is for naught if it’s done in an attitude of comparison or jealousy. The content of our offering to God is of secondary concern if our attitude of spirit is misplaced.

This concept reminds me of the passage in Mark 12 where Jesus commends the widow who gave a mere two copper coins. Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on (NIV).” It was not the WHAT that the widow gave, but the ATTITUDE in the giving that converted her offering from very small by the world’s standards to very great by the Kingdom’s standards.

As 1 Samuel 16 says, Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart (NIV).” As church leaders, may we continually examine our attitudes and keep our hearts out of the toxic trap of comparison but grounded in the Father’s graciousness and loving kindness.

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