Genesis Chapter 4
And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord.
And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.
And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
It is not clear from the text why the Lord had respect for Abel's offering, but not for Cain's. But from what we know about the Lord's character, we can assume that He is not being unfair, and that He loves Cain every bit as much as He loves Abel.
There have been times in my life when I have felt like the Lord has "had not respect" to my offerings, when all my efforts and sacrifices have not been enough to secure the blessing or outcome I desired. At such times, it is easy to fall into what I am calling the "Cain Syndrome": we become resentful and angry at God; we give up trying to please Him, and may even rebel against Him out of spite.
When we are tempted to feel this way, perhaps we should consider the following points:
- Perhaps the Lord, knowing our potential far better than we do, wants us to try a little harder, dig a little deeper, or hold on a little longer, before granting our desires. This may seem cruel, but those of us who have children know the difference between sincere effort and a token one. If all our wants were granted after just a half-hearted try, not only would it cheapen the reward, but we would be robbed of the opportunity to grow and be stretched into greater beings. It's so easy to say this, and perhaps it is not appropriate or helpful to say to those who are currently struggling under burdens or bondage that seem indefinite. I recently read the remarkable account of a man who spent over 10 years in prison for his faith in and conversion to the restored gospel. How inspiring that He did not succumb to the same temptations that Cain did!
- Perhaps we are trying really hard to give the Lord something that He has not asked for. I do this a lot. Sometimes we are so terrified to give what the Lord asks for, that we go to great lengths to give Him something else in the hopes that it will compensate for that which we cannot bear to relinquish or place on His altar. But it does not work this way. A good example of this is the behavior of King Saul in 1 Samuel Chapter 15. There is great wisdom and purpose in the Lord's directions and commands. Rationalizing or substituting our own judgment for His is the opposite of trusting Him. There is a time for us to make judgment calls and exercise prudence (see Alma 22:22, for example), but it should be done humbly and prayerfully, always with the willingness to do whatever the Lord requires.
Perhaps you have some thoughts on this matter. If so, please share them by commenting on this post below.