Hebrews 11:4 God is not impressed by a man’s gifts but by his attitude
4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.
Faith is not ability; it is a composite of godly virtues. Each of these virtues represents a unique nuance of faith. Faith is an amalgamation of virtues that pleases God and attracts His favor. When God see these virtues of faith, He releases His favor unreservedly. In today’s text, we examine the virtue of one man who found favor with God in the manner in which he served and worshiped God. God rejects one who harbors a hidden agenda, but blesses one who serves out of thanksgiving and reverence towards Him. A worshiper who serves out of a pure heart will naturally give his very best.
Abel possessed a virtue that made His offering pleasing to God. God’s acceptance of Abel’s offering ensued his commendation as God’s favored one: he was commended as righteous. The scripture did not elaborate on the specifics of Abel’s offering. It merely indicates the superior quality of the offering that is derived from the purity of Abel’s heart rather than the nature of the offering itself. Abel worshiped God with earnestness and piety as expressed by the offering of the best of his produce while Cain retained the best for himself. Alluding to Genesis 4:3-5 to set the background.
When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift — the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. Genesis 4:3-5
- While Abel offered the best of the firstborn lambs, it can be assumed that Cain offered some of his crops and kept the best for himself. This revealed a stark contrast in the heart’s posture of the two brothers concerning their reverence and thanksgiving towards God.
- Cain upon God’s rejection of his offering became very angry and defiant. Instead of taking responsibility for his character flaws and making amends according to the wholesome example of his brother, he conspired to kill Abel. This exposed the deficiency of Cain’s character that concluded in murder. Cain was laden with envy; he had a hidden agenda to exact more blessings from God and see the demise of his brother.
The scripture was silent as to how the two brothers knew about God’s respective responses to their offerings. The most graphic suggestion was that fire fell from heaven and consumed Abel’s offering, but Cain’s offering remained untouched.
Abel sets the standard of faith for future generations: And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks, not so much as to the technicality of an acceptable sacrifice, but the purity of one’s heart. The posture of the worshiper’s heart in his offering determines God’s response!
God evaluates and blesses each person according to the purity of his heart and not according to works or knowledge.
Both Cain and Abel knew God and offered their respective gifts to Him. Even though both brought gifts, but each received very different treatment; one was rejected while the other was accepted. God does not simply accept any gift or service that is presented to Him. Only the gift that is conscientiously prepared in utmost reverence and thanksgiving will suffice. Abel offered because he wanted to please God, and Cain wanted to please himself. Therefore, God does not seek the gift per se, but the virtues of the heart that pleases Him.
Many churchgoers worshiped God with the hidden agenda of attracting more blessings for themselves. They perceived God as the source of all blessings. Hence, they made a tentative decision to worship Him for the sole purpose of having their problems solved. And once they got what they wanted, they stopped worshiping Him. There were also those who left the church because they grew tired of waiting. Yet there were those who worshiped God in an obligatory manner. They lacked passion and sincerity, their attitudes were shoddy and they did not give their best in their service. Abel approached God with thanksgiving for all that He has given. Cain came with envy and with a hidden motive to exact more blessings from God. However, only those who worshiped God from a pure heart of thanksgiving and reverence will be blessed.
God sometimes waits to see the virtues of thanksgiving and reverence before extending His hand of blessing. He withholds blessing to test the posture and agenda of each heart. Therefore, worship and service is not a work to exact blessings from God; it is an expression of utmost reverence and thanksgiving for the salvation that was freely bestowed on us. Abel offered according to the purity of his heart, and that is counted as faith that gained God’s favor. God favored Abel because his heart is pure. God rejected Cain because he had a hidden and self-centered agenda.
God is impressed not by offerings and gifts but by the attitude of the heart.
Even though we may not be endowed with a golden voice, or with excellent leadership skills, or with superior evangelistic abilities. But God sees our heart of humble service and blesses us accordingly. Therefore, we do not need to compete with one another through our personal abilities, for God sees not the service per se but the heart. However, we do need to outdo one another in having an excellent attitude. A right attitude ranks above a myriad of abilities. Paul taught us to outdo one another in giving respect and honor,
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Romans 12:10-11
Even as a church appoints people to areas of service according to their individual talent, God blesses each according to the attitude of the heart. For those who serve out of thanksgiving and reverence, God entrusts higher anointing and authority to serve the people.
1. When there were times that you did not feel like worshiping God, what motivated you to continue worshiping Him? Is it the fear of missing out on God’s blessing or is it a desire to uphold your personal commitment towards Him? God blesses us when He sees our resolve to continue doing what is pleasing to Him. Faith is not an emotion, but a commitment to revere and love the One who gave Himself as a sacrifice for our salvation.
2. Do you have a tendency to want to be seen as gifted and prominent? Do not be mistaken, God does not see like a man sees. He favors not those who are gifted and prominent but those who have a pure heart.
Dear Lord, I thank you for suffering on my behalf for the sins I have committed. I do not ask for more except the grace to grow and the strength to do your will. Create in me a pure heart, to be contented with what I have and to be single-minded in serving others. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.