Christianity 201

October 4, 2018

Genesis 4: How Not to Celebrate Thanksgiving

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Clarke Dixon took a break from writing this week, but we found this 2012 article which had never been published here. This week is Thanksgiving Weekend in Canada and it’s not that many weeks away in the U.S…

by Clarke Dixon

Thanksgiving is often thought of as a time to focus on family but it is especially also thought of as a time to come before God with special gratitude for the fall harvest. Being a big fan of family and food this is something I am keen on doing. I was a bit concerned, however, that Thanksgiving would interrupt the flow of our sermon series on Genesis. Not to worry, turns out that Genesis chapter 4 brings together the themes of family and a harvest offering quite nicely. However, Cain kinda threw a spanner into the works with a murder on this first ever Thanksgiving, so I decided I had better entitle this “How Not to Celebrate Thanksgiving.”

So where did it all go wrong? Two brothers take the time to celebrate God’s goodness with offerings from their work; grain from Cain and a lamb from Abel. How does a seemingly good thing turn so sour? Some might blame God voicing his favor and disfavor toward the brothers. Had God just kept his thoughts to himself perhaps Abel would have lived to see a second Thanksgiving and beyond. But God didn’t keep his remarks to himself, there must have been something remarkable.

So the question becomes what is so remarkable about Cain’s offering that God had to express his displeasure? Was it that God prefers animal sacrifice to grain offerings? Was it that blood needed to be spilled for it to be a true offering? Was Cain’s offering not up to snuff in being of lesser value, being either not of sufficient amount or of quality? Each of these possibilities have been suggested, but I think the passage speaks to the what the problem is, it lets us in on what God found remarkable.

Let’s look at the passage and I’ll ask you to focus in on the character of Cain for a moment;

3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD.  4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering,  5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.  6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?  7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.  9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  10 The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.  11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”  13 Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear.  14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” (Genesis 4:3-14 NIV)

So what can we say about Cain? He has anger issues (verse 4), he does not listen or heed instruction (as given in verse 7), He is deceitful (verse 8), He is violent to the point of murder (verse 8), he is apathetic to the concerns of another, especially one he should take responsibility for (verse 9), he is snarky towards One who commands respect (verse 9), and finally he is self-centered in showing no remorse but only concern for his own future (verse 13). In short, his character is just plain pathetic. We might be tempted to assume that the brothers were alike until Cain’s anger was aroused, but we should think rather of Cain’s actions as being rooted in the kind of man he had become.

The problem is not with Cain’s offering, the problem is with Cain. Notice that God does not just look at the offering the brothers are bringing, he looks at the brothers also: “The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor” (Genesis 4:4b-5a NIV my italics). If Adam and Eve sinned by trying too hard to be like God, then Cain sinned by not trying hard enough. God is love, Cain is filled with hatred. God is gracious, Cain is selfish. God serves, Cain is self-serving. God is honest, Cain is a liar. Though created in the image of the Creator, Cain fails to live up to that image in any way.

What a contrast Cain is to Jesus. The offering at the cross goes far beyond what any other offering ever could. “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV). But more than the perfect and supreme offering, Jesus is the one who bears the image of God like no one else. “This is my Son . . . with Him I am well pleased” (2 Peter 1:17 NIV and elsewhere). We might say that God looked upon Jesus and his offering with favor.

How does God look upon you and your offering this Thanksgiving? We’ve already seen how not to celebrate Thanksgiving; as one with a character that displeases God, a character that will lead to all kinds of behaviors that displease God and make life miserable for others at the same time. Of course we are grateful for the grace of God, and the gift of forgiveness in Christ. But that grace does not stop us from taking a good solid look at our character.

Wherever we may be in our character formation, are we moving in the right direction? Are we becoming more and more like Jesus, or more and more like Cain? I trust that you and I are moving in the right direction with the power of the Holy Spirit. And for that opportunity there can be much thanksgiving.

To be forgiven, and to be growing in Christian maturity, now that’s a great way to celebrate Thanksgiving.


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada.

Read Clarke Dixon’s blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

November 18, 2011

Ten Reasons to Tithe

I can’t think of a topic that pastors hate preaching about more than giving.  It appears like they are just taking their 30-minute sermon time and holding out their hat in their hand and rebuking the congregation for not doing enough.  But in fact, no pastor would be declaring the whole counsel of God, if they didn’t, at least every two or three years, broach this difficult and sensitive subject.

The title of this post is a bit of a misnomer, for several reasons, not all of which we’ll get into here.  Andy Stanley uses the term I prefer, “percentage giving.”  Others teach that the requirement to tithe ended with the Old Testament era, though the Apostle Paul seems fairly clear about supporting those who teach you, and about giving to widows and orphans.

For the rest of today’s consideration of offerings and tithes, we turn to Trent Griffith, pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Granger, Indiana, where this appeared on his blog as The Truth Behind The Tithe.   Be sure to read the introduction carefully so you’re following the rest of the piece.

Tithing is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the bible. Giving ten percent of your income is certainly noble and would be a worthy goal for every Christian. But if you think 10% is God’s and 90% is yours, you’ve missed the truth behind the tithe.

The Old Testament teaching on tithing was more akin to our modern tax code than generosity. There were actually 3 different tithes required in the Old Testament to fund the theocratic government. One was to be paid every third year. So if you follow the pattern of the Old Testament tithe you would actually be paying 23.3%. But remember it was more like paying your taxes. What is the biblical teaching on giving? Pay your taxes AND give generously to the Lord from your heart.

I believe the Old Testament teaching on the tithe reveals 10 truths BEHIND the tithe that every New Testament Christian must embrace BEFORE he can consider himself an obedient giver.

1) Give with pre-determination.  Rather than asking, “What should I give?” every time God gives to you, decide now. Just like you budget for recurring expenses, predetermine where and how much you’re going to invest in funding ministry before it comes in.

2) Give as a priority. God’s priority is always give, save, spend NOT spend, save, give. When you have the right priority your giving will determine your spending. When you have the wrong priority, your spending will determine your giving.

3) Give a percentage.  Don’t get hung up on 10%. Some can’t give 10% but can still give generously in faith. Others can give 10% without exercising faith. Generosity is not determined by what you give. Generosity is determined by what is left over after you give. Whether you give 10%, 11% or 1%, give something that stretches your faith. Giving a percentage of your income forces you to look at all of your income and expenses from God’s perspective. Do you know what you make? Spend? Give? If not, how can you determine if you are being generous?

4) Give the first and best of what God provides.  Quit feeling so generous when you drop off your old underwear at Goodwill. God doesn’t want your leftovers. Give God your best stuff. Give off the top of everything you take in. Write the check for ministry before you write the check for the mortgage and groceries.

5) Withholding what belongs to God forfeits God’s presence. In Malachi 3:6-9 God tells his people why He had left them. They had stolen what rightfully belonged to God. If God seems distant to you, you might to see if you have His money in your bank account.

6) Bring what you give to the place of worship. In the Old Testament, God’s people brought the tithe to the place where they worshipped. Today, God’s people should bring their gifts to the local church where they worship. The local church is God’s plan to reach the world. Other ministry giving should be above and beyond your responsibility to fund the ministries of your local church.

7) Giving is a test God loves to prove He can pass. In Malachi 3:10 God invites you to test him in your giving. Leonard Ravenhill said, “You have an incredible opportunity to be the first person in the history of the world whom God has every failed. So test Him.”

8) Giving acts on the promise that God has plenty. Only when you believe that God can open the windows of Heaven to supply all your need will you give at a level that demonstrates faith.

9) Giving invites God’s protection. Malachi 3:11 promises God will “rebuke the devourer” for those who honor God in their giving.  Times of economic hardship are the worst time to hold out on God. You can’t afford to go without God’s protection during difficult times. Get God’s money where it belongs now, before God sends the devourer to collect it!

10) God delights in blessing people who give in faith. Do you want God to bless the things you care about most? When you give God’s way He will ensure that you become the object of His blessing so others will take note of His ability to provide.  God has no greater delight than showing off His glory in those who trust him with their finances.

~Trent Griffith