Am I about to worship as Cain or Abel?

Am I about to worship as Cain or Abel?
“Am I about to worship as Cain or Abel?” 
That’s the question that crossed my mind as I walked into church on a particularly bad Sunday. I was irritated by a thoughtless comment someone made to me before I even entered the building.
On our good days, we show up as Abel.
Our heart and its motives are pure.
We are contrite.
We are thankful that we get to be there in that space with God as our aim.
We don’t resist God’s teaching and are quick to repent of hidden sin.
Our worship is “accepted.”
But on the bad days, I’m afraid we show up as Cain.
From the outside, we look the same as Abel.
We serve, we sing, we smile. We come, hands full of offerings because–DER– who would come without one?!?
But inside, the thoughts are off, the motives are wrong, or maybe sin is being held on to.
We certainly aren’t in a place to come before God in true worship.
I love what Jen Wilkin said about Cain’s worship in her study of Genesis 4:
“Cain had a outward show of righteousness with an inward resistance. Know what we call that? Legalism. He believes that he can do what is right according to the letter of the law, but his heart doesn’t have to be in the right place.  That external righteousness is all that is required of me. I don’t have to LOVE this. I just have to DO this.”
“Cain worship” goes around God’s law. It sings God’s praises while calculating to kill his brother.
It proclaims love for God while harboring smoldering resentment towards another. 
It shows up on Sunday, and lives indifferently towards God the rest of the week.
It uses God’s name but doesn’t reverence God’s law.
Cain worship is not accepted by God.
And through this all, God is long-suffering towards us.
He shines a light on our sin so we can deal with it and do well and be accepted.
God is concerned that we not be entangled in sin because He loves us and knows that sin always brings a death blow spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
Whenever I see a mom of little ones at church, I purposefully try to encourage them for getting their kids to church because it’s a HUGE job and Sundays can be frustrating when you are outnumbered with toddlers. It is a major victory, I know.
But getting there is only half the battle. The real battle lies on the turf of our heart.
If we enter worship:
  • frustrated that our husband didn’t help us more to get out the door,
  • aggravated that our kids are being, well, KIDS and making life hard and not keeping their hair ribbons in,
  • preoccupied with problems
  • irritated because so-and-so just says whatever and we’re fed up with her stupid comments
  • determined to put that lady over there in her place,
  • unwilling to change,
…..maybe asking yourself the “Cain and Abel” question will help you as well.
This is serious heart stuff.
We can be dressed in our Sunday best and still a mess on the inside.
We can come to worship and be ready to “kill” someone on the inside. (Cain did eventually kill Abel, incidentally. His thoughts had consequences and did eventually became his actions. You may not physically kill someone but you can kill a person’s reputation or your own relationship with them because of your resentment. Either way, you kill your own spiritual growth in the meantime.)
Our heart is what matters and God sees every inch of it.
This is not meant to be preachy but just something to consider as you choose to walk rightly with God.
Am I Cain or Abel as I worship?
Am I Cain or Abel as I do my devotions today?Pray?
Are my motives pure as I offer this gift, time, ministry, talent? Or are my motives impure, self-centered, or self-protective?
I need this “check up” every day of the week.  Maybe it will help someone else out there as well.
In Christ, even if you worship “like Cain” one day, you are still God’s child. Your position in Christ does not change based on good or bad works once you are saved. I didn’t want anyone to be confused by the analogy. Cain was an unbeliever, which would have made his worship unacceptable to begin with.  God still worked with Him and counseled Him to repent, though we have no record that he ever did.

2 thoughts on “Am I about to worship as Cain or Abel?”

  • You always give me something to ponder and something to share! Love your posts. Thank you!

  • Thanks Sarah! This article really spoke to me as I have been pondering the passage about the Lord looking for “true worshipers”. Excellent example.

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