Humans have a tremendous capacity to bear fruit. Genesis shows us that God has blessed humanity with the ability to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). Although our fruitfulness and our very existence is a gift from God, we frequently serve what God creates, rather than God himself. As the Apostle Paul states in Romans 1:25 humans have perpetually “…exchange the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator….”
This reality is seen from the beginning of humanity. After Adam and Eve chose to do things their own way, there was a divide between humanity and God. This divide deepened through their sons Cain and Abel.
One of the key elements in the story of Cain and Abel is the issue of fruitfulness or abundance. The Scripture says that Abel was a shepherd while Cain was a worker of the soil (Gen 4:2). Each man immediately found that their work produced fruit.
This is true of our lives as well. When we give a prolonged season of our best effort and energy to something, we produce fruit. Soil that is carefully tilled, seeded, weeded, and watered will produce a harvest. If we work hard at our place of employment and give many hours to the tasks we are assigned, we will receive a pay check! Money is a fruit of our labors. We expend our “life energy” to get money. We travel miles and hours away from home on a consistent basis to earn the fruit of money. For the most part, this produces a monetary fruitfulness. However, like Cain and Able we have a choice.
The Scripture says that Cain and Abel both brought an offering to God. Abel’s offering was the “fat portion” from the “first born” of his flock (Gen 4:4). Although fat portion doesn’t seem that appetizing to the modern pallet, in the ancient world the “fat portion” was considered the “best portion.” Abel’s willingness to give God the best and first fruit of his labor was a clear sign that Abel understood why he was fruitful. Fruitfulness is a gift from God! Consequently, Abel placed his best fruitfulness before the Lord.
Cain, on the other hand, just “brought an offering of the fruit of the ground” (Gen 4:3). This passage is clear in implying that Cain’s offering was just an offering. Cain gave to God, but he did not give his first and best fruit. While Abel gave God first priority, Cain gave himself first dibs on God’s prosperity. Cain began to serve self and hoard the fruit of his existence.
It is a tendency of humanity to store up for self. One of the most challenging realities of these verses is the fact that both Cain and Able gave an offering. Too often we see the issue of fruitfulness as whether or not we should give something or nothing. This is not how Scripture frames the issue. The question of giving is assumed. If you breath, you give back to the Lord. Rather, the issue is what are you willing to give back to God. Will you give God your first and best or will you give him just a “portion” of your life. This is an issue that must be settled in our hearts if we are going to experience true freedom in our lives!
In the case of Cain and Abel, God looks upon Abel’s offering with “regard”. For Cain, God has “no regard” for his offering (Gen. 4:4-5). In other words, Cain was engaged in a religious activity that had no value! Giving money, energy, resources, and time to God is not what God desires. Rather, Christian maturity is rooted in sacrificial obedience. Life is found in giving our first and best to God. Bondage is rooted in giving our first and best to someone or something other than God.
God clearly points this out to Cain. In a very gentle and clear warning God tells Cain that Cain must give his best because, “sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it” (Gen 4:7). God is telling Cain that the temptation to serve self is always near by, ready to pounce on its prey. Unfortunately, Cain does not heed God’s warning and the result of an unsubmitted heart is the fruit of death and destruction. For those of you who don’t know the story, Cain kills Abel in a fit of jealous rage.
God truly wants us to give our first and best to Him. This is not because God needs our money, time, or resources. Rather, we need God! When we give a half-hearted offering to God, we open our heart to serving other things. The Scripture is very clear on this matter, we cannot serve two masters. Jesus taught us, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Luke 16:13).
Financial freedom is rooted in deciding up front who you will serve. Are you going to serve God or are you going to serve yourself? Where does your best and first fruit go? Often we come to God when we are in a financial crisis. Although God cares about this crisis, we must be careful not to try and make God serve our crisis. Freedom comes from finding out how to serve God, not in trying to get enough religion to fix our temporary problem.
Financial freedom is like all freedom; it is rooted in surrender to God. Financial freedom is more than dollars and cents; it is a way of being. We give a tremendous amount of our life energy away for the purpose of acquiring money. Where that money ends up says a lot about who we serve. It is rather easy to tell who we serve by what we do.
I encourage you this week to follow your dollars. Take an inventory of your life. Where do you spend all your time? How many hours do you work (including your commute)? What percentage of your life energy do you spend on acquiring money? Where do you spend that money? How many of these decisions are informed by God? Does God get your first and best energy, time, and money? Or does God get your left over resources? Are you more likely to call in sick to work or to God? When trouble comes, who or what gets short changed? “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
I’m not trying to judge anyone. I’m just pointing to what the Bible says clearly and unequivocally; you cannot serve two masters! (Matt 6:24). Freedom is found in embracing the reality that I live best when I give my first and best fruit to God.