The story of Cain murdering Abel is very widely known, but perhaps what came before it is not so widely known.
They both bring offerings to the Lord, and for whatever reasons, the Lord honors Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s. At first glance one might think that it’s because Abel’s offering was from the best of the flock, and Cain’s maybe not? But then we can get onto a slippery slope that God is pleased with us based on the quality / quantity of our physical offerings, and we know from the Bible that God looks at the heart. (1 Sam 16:7) Yet, this is not an excuse to not tithe of course – that should be a cheerful act from the heart. (See 2 Cor 9:6-8)
The Bible says that Cain was “very angry and his face fell” (Gen 4:5). This is in a sense the first counseling session ever – as Cain is now upset and experiencing negative feelings from an ungodly reaction to a situation. For whatever reason, his offering is not acceptable to God, he reacts in anger and now is experiencing negative feelings. I love the clarity and directness in which God responds to Cain in their little session:
“Why are you angry and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?” [In other words if you do right, right feelings follow]
“And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. It’s desire is against you, but you must rule over it.”
When we are faced with a situation that is going wrong – we are also faced with two choices: React in a God pleasing (biblical) way or a sinful way. However, be aware – sin is right there ready to master you – and we must overcome sinful desires in the power of the Holy Spirit and resist sin.
The good news? The Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to say no to sin (Titus 2:12). It is a learned behavior – you have learned to respond sinfully to situations – you can learn to respond in a God pleasing way to situations. God’s word and his Spirit are what we need to learn this. This is one of the basics principles of Biblical Counseling – and we thank God for the hope of real lasting change in the gospel!