Giving the Best of Ourselves
by Rev Jacky Quarmby 8 October 2023
So Adam and Eve disobeyed God and so the story goes they were sent out of God’s beautiful garden to manage on their own, to work the soil for food, to build a home for themselves and to start a family. Well, life was tough and it wasn’t made any easier, by the arrival of two little boys - Cain and Abel.
Like most brothers, Cain and Abel were interested in different things. Cain, the older brother enjoyed working the land, so he became a farmer and spent his days growing fruit and vegetables. Abel, his younger brother, became a shepherd and spent his days and nights in the fields caring for his sheep.
Well Autumn came. It had been a good summer for farmers. The sun had shone, soft rains had fallen and after a very successful harvest, Cain’s barns were full of vegetables and fruit. And Abel had had a good season too. His sheep had given birth to lots of new lambs and he’d managed to keep the wolves away, so that every one of the lambs had survived the summer. It had been a good year.
It was time to say thank you to God.
Cain put some of his fruit and vegetables in a basket and brought them to God as a harvest offering. Abel went out into the fields and brought back the first lamb he had delivered that Spring, now one of the strongest and healthiest of the flock. And Abel gave that lamb to God as his harvest offering.
Well, the Lord was pleased with Abel and his offering, but God was not pleased with Cain and his offering.
But why was that? What was the difference between the two gifts?
Very simply - God was pleased with Abel, because Abel had given God the best that he had. Abel was so thankful to God that he gave God, not just an ordinary lamb, but the firstborn, the most precious lamb that he owned. But Cain - well Cain had just given God a bit - nothing special. Just a little something. So maybe Cain wasn’t really thankful to God at all.
In our lives, we have a lot to thank God for. There are all the practical things we enjoy - food, education, warm homes, fresh water, good health provision – but there are also God’s most precious gifts. The gift of God’s son, Jesus, who has taken away all that separates us from God, in this life and the next, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is our guide and comforter, our strength and our peace.
But how thankful are we? It is easy to take God’s gifts for granted. So that when we’re asked to express our thankfulness to God by sharing our time or our money with others, like Cain it is easy to just give a little, the bit that’s left over, the bit we don’t really want - and to keep the rest, the best for ourselves.
But Abel shows us a different way – the way of thankfulness and generosity – and it is this way that brings joy to God’s heart. So if we are really thankful for our lives and all the good things that God has given to us, the best way to say thank you is to be generous with all that we have and to give the very best of ourselves to everyone we meet and to everything that we do.
As Isaac Watts puts it so beautifully in his hymn, “When I survey the wondrous cross”,
Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were an offering far too small
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Hymn: When I survey the wondrous cross
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We thank you for all the good things in our lives that we enjoy.
And we thank you especially for your Son Jesus,
Who loved us so much that he was prepared to die for us.
May we never forget how much you have done for us
But express our thankfulness
By sharing generously all that we have
And by giving the very best of ourselves in every part of our lives. Amen