Did you know the first murderer in history was a religious person? Genesis 4 tells the story of Cain and Abel, two worshipers who happened to be brothers. Abel's sacrifice—or offering—was accepted by God. Cain, on the other hand, crashed and burned.
Our text says that "Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground" (v. 2). He was a farmer. And his work was tied to his worship. In verses 3-5, we read that "Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering."
Why did God say yes to one offering and no to the other? The first reason was the quality of the offering. Notice that Abel brought his very best to God. But there's no mention at all about the quality of Cain's sacrifice—probably because he didn't care about it.
The second reason was the character of the offerer. Down in verse 7, God asked Cain, "If you do well, will you not be accepted?" In other words, "If you lived right, your offering would be acceptable to Me." God does not see worship apart from the worshiper. If you're corrupt, so is your gift. Cain lacked the life-transforming, saving faith that would motivate him to righteous living (see Hebrews 11:4).
As a result, a seed of murder began growing in his heart (see v. 5). God knew Cain was struggling inside, so He reasoned with him: "If you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it" (v. 7). In other words, "If you don't become a victor over your sin, you're going to become a victim of your sin."
For Cain, the beast won. Sin mastered him. "It came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him" (v. 8). The revenge must have felt good at first. But it didn't last. When God met up with Cain, He cursed him and made him a lifelong exile (see vv. 10-12).
What can you take away from this story so that you don't crash and burn like Cain? First, realize that our basic problem as humans is a worship problem. Cain didn't give his best in worship. Make sure you give God your best—your best self, your best energy, your best time.
Second, don't let the root of sin produce its fruit. Cain let the root of anger produce the fruit of murder. Each of us needs to master the flesh that wars against the Spirit (see Galatians 5:17). And we have the power of the Holy Spirit to be able to do that.
Third, know that sin always brings separation. It separated Cain from God, from his family, and from fellowship. Sin creates lonely, isolated people, and that's the worst way to live.
The key to avoiding Cain's mistakes is getting back to worship, letting the Lord take first place in your life. Will you make room in your heart for the God of this universe to take over and be your supreme King?