But He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.
Yesterday, we covered the first factor that differentiated the offerings of Cain and Abel: the difference in quality and effort behind the two offerings. Today, we will cover the second major difference:
The difference in the lives and attitudes behind the offerings.
While there were likely quality differences between the two offerings, the true disparity in the offerings was in the lives and attitudes of the men behind them.
Cain was very clearly living a life that was not pleasing to God. Later, when God addressed Cain about his offering, God told Cain that “if you do well, will you not be accepted?” (verse 7, emphasis added). The implication is that Cain was not doing “well” and was living a life unacceptable to God. We learn in the New Testament that Cain was “of the wicked one” and “his works were evil” (1 John 3:12).
Part of the reason God rejected Cain’s offering was because of the evil lifestyle that was behind it. God is very clear that He expects our inward spiritual state to be consistent with our outward actions. Proverbs 15:8 is clear that “the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD.”
Abel, on the other hand, was living a life that was acceptable to God. His quality offering accurately reflected the quality of the life behind it. The New Testament clearly identifies Abel as “righteous” (1 John 3:12). His offering was “more excellent” and was a witness (or outward evidence) of his inward righteousness and faith (Hebrews 11:4).
What can we learn from the difference between the lives and attitudes of Cain and Abel? One significant lesson is that we cannot rely on just the outward appearance of religious worship to please God. Cain tried to hide his unrighteous life through an offering. But God “looks at the heart,” not merely at “outward appearance” (1 Samuel 16:7, see also Jeremiah 17:10).
Jesus Christ corrected the Pharisees for a similar issue. The Pharisees appeared righteous externally, but were inwardly unrighteous and living lives unacceptable to God (Matthew 23:25-28).
True Christians are to “love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27, emphasis added)—meaning our love for God and righteousness must go down to the core of our being. That does not mean God is not concerned about our outward appearance and actions. The Bible is clear we are to be “doers of the word” (James 1:22) as a result of the “implanted word” of God inside of us (James 1:21).
To learn more about how true Christians are to be converted from the inside out, see the articles in the “Christian Conversion” section.