Yesterday I studied the story of Cain and Abel. “In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And 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.’” (Genesis 4:3-7)
The Bible does not say why God rejected Cain’s sacrifice. Perhaps Cain’s attitude was improper, or perhaps his offering was not up to God’s standards. “The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable — how much more so when brought with evil intent!” (Prov. 21:27) We are also told in Prov 21:3, “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” God evaluates both our motives and the quality of what we offer Him. When we give to God and others, we should have a joyful heart because of what we are able to give. We shouldn’t worry about how much we are giving up, for all things are God’s in the first place. Instead, we should joyfully give to God our best in time, money, possessions, and talents.
For Cain to master the sin lurking at the entrance to his desires, he would have to give up his jealous anger so that sin wouldn’t find a foothold in his life. We can be victims of sin if we don’t master it. But we can’t master sin on our own strength. The Holy Spirit will help us master sin. “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14) Paul conceived of sin as a power that enslaves, and so personified it.
Cain didn’t choose to listen to God, and he allowed sin into his heart. We can make a different choice. “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16) Sin is disobedience to God. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
Jesus speaks on this in John 8:34, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” He says this because sinners cannot break free by their own strength. “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:18) Christians have changed masters. Whereas they were formerly slaves to sin, now they become willing servants to righteousness.
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galations 6:7-8)