I underperformed the other day and got called on it. I was embarrassed and mad at myself for having chosen the path of least resistance in the situation. Other than feeling sick to my stomach for several hours, I was grateful for the gentle reprimand and reminder that there is a better way.
Cain and Abel were the world’s first siblings. But not for long.
As an offering to God, Abel brought “the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions,” while Cain “brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground.” Abel’s offering was pleasing to God; Cain’s was not.
It’s generally thought that Cain’s offering did not get God’s approval because it was the leftovers from the produce of his farm, not the very best. Kind of a “here you go, God, this is all I could scrounge up for You.”
So, scripture says, Cain got angry because God did not look with favor on his offering. He “lost his temper and went into a sulk.” (The Message). Embarrassed that he had taken too casual an attitude toward God’s holy offering? Jealous at Abel for showing him up? Mad at God for being so nit-picky about what exactly constitutes a worthy offering? Whatever the cause, Cain went into a funk. The world’s first son was sinking into a murderous rage when God intervened.
God cared about this first offspring of the first parents, so He warned Cain about making a different choice. And it’s a two-part warning:
- “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?” (4:6-7a) Why so mad? I’ve told you what offering I want from you. If you choose to give me the best of your labors, I will accept it. If not, I won’t. But listen Cain, it’s not too late. Do the right thing here and everything will be okay.
- “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (4:7b) On the other hand, Cain, if you choose to go through the door of jealousy and rage, sin will prevail. It’s waiting to have you, but you must master it.
Kyle Idleman, in AHA, imagines what God might have said:
“Now wait a minute, Cain. Push Pause. You need to take a deep breath, and you need to recognize something. What is right behind this door, what is a moment away for you, has the power to destroy. It seeks to have you. Cain, you need to be really careful with what you do next.” (AHA, p. 37)
God, Idleman says, sounded the alarm. But the choice was up to Cain. God stepped back and let this older brother make a decision that changed his life forever. Sin prevailed and Cain murdered Abel.
God is always sounding the alarm for His people. Whether we are underperforming, cheating, lying, or running away, God wants us to hear Him say,
Now wait a minute, dear one. Push pause. Take a deep breath. Sin is right there with the power to destroy. Be very careful with what you choose to do next.
I want to pay attention to the alarms God sounds, remembering that I have the power, in Jesus’ Name, to rule over the sin that crouches daily at my door. Sin wants me, but God wants me more.
My little episode the other day was a reminder that I am called, always, to give my very best to God and to the ones He loves. Underperforming is never an option.
So, sound the alarm God, sound the alarm.