A blog by Josh Humbert
***Note: The series of posts here (“part 1, part 2,” etc) are from my category called Get In The Word. To read more like this, you can click the Get In The Word category from the drop-down menu on the right side of this page. Essentially, these posts are from my own sermon writing and preparation. My goal with this category is to help you see truth in Scripture, and to assist those who might be preparing their own sermon or study. I highly encourage each person to do their own reading, studying, and praying, but my goal is to provide a look into how I handled it and maybe spark some ideas in your work. May you benefit from this as you Get In The Word!***
When I was about 6 years old, my older brother and I were deliberately disobeying my mom by chasing each other all over our house.
I know, I know….you see this picture of my brother and I at that age (I’m the handsome blonde one) and you think to yourself, “Josh, there’s simply NO WAY that YOU were disobedient! I refuse to believe it! It must be FAKE NEWS!”
Though it pains me to admit it – yes…twas I indeed. Guilty as charged. We were running and roughhousing indoors – this was against the rules. I can still hear my mom calling out “you boys better stop running around this house, you’re gonna break something or yourself.”
That was intelligence. Sound wisdom. A mother’s insight. A timely word of counsel I should have applied. A few moments later my forehead would bear the marks of my disobedience.
As I was chasing my older brother, I accidentally slipped off the corner of our couch and landed my face right on the edge of our brick fireplace. I’m telling you: that fireplace WON the showdown with my face. I immediately had a deep gash between my eyes with blood flowing everywhere.
Many stitches and a scar later I can say with confidence: I was given a wise warning just when I needed it – but I ignored it and it cost me. Thankfully God can make beauty from…(nervously clears throat)…gashes. C’mon now, ashes (fireplace), gashes (my forehead)…you see it.
What will follow is a three-part series on Genesis 4:3-10, where God gives one of the greatest wise warnings ever.
Time for part 1….
The Wicked Brother
3 So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.
Offerings And Outsides
Cain and Abel make a specific type of offering to God (in the Hebrew it is called a “minchah”, a dedication offering). This is when you’d take something choice, something special, and offer it to God as a clear way of saying, “I thank You and I’m all Yours.”
We haven’t even gone very far in human history at this point – this is Cain and Abel after all! – but already you can see how advanced and devious humans have become with sin. (*Author’s note* We haven’t grown out of this, we aren’t “better” than this. This is still how we operate.)
On the outside, everything about Cain appears good and right. He isn’t a shady drug dealer or an evil dictator or a greedy CEO… he seems to be a hard-working man who appears to worship God. How can this first post in the series have a heading like, “The Wicked Brother,”? If we describe him we might use words like “good person,” or even… “religious.”
What’s happening is that already, just 4 chapters in, the Bible is illuminating a fundamental truth about us humans: you can be FAR from God when you are a “good person” who is “religious.” Indeed, it will be the Pharisees – those “good” and “religious” men of the New Testament – who plot the death of Jesus.
On the outside, everything can look right. There can even be offerings, aka forms of worship! However, the heart can still be darkened with sin and destruction is waiting at the door.
The Ugliness Of Fake Devotion
Hebrews 11:4 gives us commentary notes on the situation: “By faith, Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain…” I love the clarity that Scripture gives us.
This is the line of separation between the brothers. Abel comes with his dedication offering and it is all “by faith.” God had already promised their parents, Adam and Eve, that He would send a Savior to redeem fallen man (Gen. 3:15). God had already proclaimed the good news of a Messiah on His way! So Abel is offering his “minchah” with a heart of faith in God’s promise.
Not so with Cain. He isn’t showing faith in God’s promised Savior….he’s trying to buy God’s favor because of his “good” works.
One pastor describes Cain’s offering like this:
“Cain makes his offering not as a response to salvation but as a means of salvation. He comes and brings the things he has done, and he says, ‘Look at what I’ve done. I’m a good person. Look at my sacrifices. Look at my goodness.’”
Cain is simply doing a religious act so that God will bless him and give him stuff. There’s no passion for God. There’s no trust in His promises.
Cain is only looking for God’s favor while Abel is looking for God Himself. Friend, this is the immeasurably vast difference between trying to use God and actually worshipping God.
The curtain is pulled back, the mask is revealed: Cain IS the wicked brother and it all stems from his FAKE devotion.
I noticed a peculiar phenomenon in the middle of the 2010’s: out of nowhere, many people were wearing Golden State Warrior shirts and jerseys. Where had all these “fans” been for decades? I can tell you that seeing ANY Warrior apparel was exceedingly rare up until that middle part of the decade.
What happened? The Warriors started winning championships. That’s what caused what we call the “t-shirt fans” to appear. Those t-shirt fans weren’t supporting the Warriors when they were mediocre/awful for decades of NBA history. They weren’t going to the games and cheering when times were lean. The t-shirt fan conveniently arrives on the scene when the WINNING is happening, when the bag is secured.
This is Cain; a t-shirt fan of God.
If God is handing out blessings and favor, he will come present an offering. But make no mistake, there is no real devotion. No faith. No trust. He’s just there for the stuff.
That’s why verse 5 lands like a vicious uppercut, “…for Cain and his offering God had no regard.”
The Truest Fan I Know
I personally know of a person who is the very opposite, nay! the very antitheses of a t-shirt fan. He is no fair-weather fan, not one to just to show up when the winning is happening. No sir, this man will RIDE or die for his team….even though it’s been mostly DIE on the team side of things.
This person is my dad. My dad loves the Cleveland Browns.
Friend….the Cleveland Browns are usually AWFUL. Now, I don’t mean like, “hey, they might not make the playoffs this season.” I mean like, “hey, they might not WIN A GAME this season.” The Browns, with very rare exceptions, have been just about one of the worst teams in the NFL. Back in 2018, I calculated their record just since 2000 to be 86 wins and 202 loses. This means: the Browns could have 7 undefeated seasons in a row (stop laughing) and they STILL wouldn’t break even in their win percentage.
(And that’s just since 2000. As a kid in the 80’s, I remember John Elway ending the few promising seasons the Browns have ever had.)
Through it all, and BOY does that “all” contain so much heartache, I’ve watched my dad support the Browns. He’s subscribed to a Browns weekly paper for as long as I can remember. He (somehow) watches every game. He unabashedly wears Brown shirts and sweaters.
In 2016, the Browns went 1-15. In 2017, they went 0-16. During that rather stunning display of 1-31 awfulness…..my dad was still wearing his t-shirt of the Cleveland Browns.
In a world full of fair-weather t-shirt fans who show up just when the situation is good, I’ve seen my dad stand with unwavering support for the mostly awful Cleveland Browns.
Maybe you see it as comical. Maybe it IS quite comical. But it’s also what true devotion looks like.
Which Way Will You Go?
Fake devotion is not acceptable to God. He “has no regard” for it. No one deceives God either – He sees to our hearts and motives. If we are just desiring the gifts instead of the Giver, He knows it. If we only want the blessings instead of a relationship, He knows it. On the outside we can seem like a “good person” who does “religious acts,” and maybe we think that means God is in our debt – I can tell you He is not.
T-shirt devotion means nothing to Him. True devotion is what pleases Him (Hebrews 11:6).
The Christian life is not easy. There will be times of suffering , scars , confusion, and discouragement – those will be times when devotion is tested. Am I willing to still trust even when it seems like a “losing season?” Am I only coming near to God because I think He’s handing out blessings? Will I offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with a heart full of trust in Jesus Christ?
The promised Messiah that Abel put his trust in did come down to us – His name is Jesus Christ. In His earthly life, Jesus faced constant sorrow and trials. Though He inwardly and outwardly lived a life of perfect righteousness, He went to the Cross to pay our debts and provide the greatest blessing we can receive: salvation and adoption into His family forever. Yet, as He suffered on the Cross, as He faced an ultimate loss on our behalf, His devotion never wavered. “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.”
Questions To Consider For Part One
What more accurately describes my worship recently: genuine devotion or going through empty motions?
Who in my life has been an example of true devotion to the Lord? Have I thanked and encouraged them for their steadfast faith? What can I learn from them?
When was the last time I cheerfully gave back to God in response to what He has given me?
Thanks for reading. Your comments and insights are always welcomed. If you enjoyed this, please share it. Want more content? Check the archives or listen to me on the Cross-Cutting Culture Podcast on iTunes.