Focus    on Purpose
If I have faith to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing
© Focus On Purpose July 2017

A Matter of the

Heart

“These people make a big show of saying

the right thing, but their heart isn’t in it.

They act like they’re worshiping me, but

they don’t mean it.”

(Matthew 15:8 The Message)

What’s in a Gift?

Have you ever received a gift that made you feel as though you had no value in the eyes of the giver? I was once given a half-used bottle of hand cream from a woman for whom I had a high regard. What intensified the sting, was that this woman was an intelligent and wealthy woman. For her not to have given a gift at all, would have been far less hurtful than a half-used bottle of lotion. I have also received gifts like empty match-boxes wrapped in gift-wrap, which I saw as precious, because it was given by my three-year-old cousin who just loved to give presents. It is not the size or value of a gift that is important, but the thought communicated through the gift that brings meaning and value, not so? What do we communicate to God, through the gifts we bring to Him? A Treasured Gift Cain and Abel were Adam and Eve's first sons. Cain worked in the field with his father, while Abel tended sheep. One day Cain decided to offer God a portion of the harvest as a gift. He must have spoken about his desire to bring a sacrifice to God, and so Abel decided to join his brother and bring a gift as well. Cain brought the fruit of the land, and Abel brought some firstborn lambs. God was pleased by Abel's sacrifice, but was not pleased with Cain's - why? Some commentators say that at the time of clothing Adam and Eve, God had shown them the kind of sacrifice He required. They then say that Abel followed God's teaching, while Cain chose to do his own thing. But the Bible does not explicitly tell us that God instituted a law of sacrifices at that time. We are taught that God is the real Author of the Bible. He inspired key people to write according to the Holy Spirit’s leading. If God is the Author, and His desire is to build intimate love relationships with the people He has created, then why would He relate a story in a way that makes Him appear subjective and unfair? Why would God neglect to add key information that will show us why Abel's gift was accepted and appreciated, while Cain's was not? Does this incident not produce a potential barrier to trust, especially for those who have experienced injustice and rejection? When looking at the sacrificial laws given to Moses, we see that these sacrifices are not only blood sacrifices, but there is also instruction for grain offerings and first-fruits offerings. So God is not opposed to the concept of a sacrifice of the fruit of our hands. So, if God is a just and fair God of love, Who does not judge on the basis of personal preference, and there is no mention of sacrificial laws, why did God accept Abel's sacrifice, but reject Cain's? I believe there is something deeper going on here. Beyond Law The Bible tells us that God does not look at our outward behaviour, but He looks at our heart. God says that you cannot judge a person according to his outward behaviour; the true person is reflected in the thoughts of their hearts. Solomon expresses this in Proverbs 23:6-8 : “Do not eat the bread of a selfish man, or desire his delicacies; for as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, "Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you. You will vomit up the morsel you have eaten, and waste your compliments." And also Proverbs 26: 24-25 : "He who hates disguises it with his lips, but lays up (or places) deceit in his heart. When he speaks graciously, do not believe him, for there are seven abominations in his heart." How can we know what was happening in Cain and Abel's hearts? I believe it is revealed in the descriptions of the sacrifices: According to Genesis 4:3, "Cain brought ... of the fruit of the ground." In Genesis 4:4, we are told, "Abel ... brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions."  What is the significance of mentioning the fat portions? Just as in English, the figurative meaning of the Hebrew word for 'fat' is "the choicest part." Abel brought the best of the best. Cain simply brought "of the fruit of the ground." God desires that we love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. What do you give as a gift to someone you love so passionately? A half-used bottle of lotion? Or the best of what you have? God's Response. Did God reject Cain for not selecting from the best of the crop, the 'fat of the land'? The Hebrew words state that God gazed upon Abel and his offering, but He did not gaze upon Cain and this offering. Have you watched people at a time when they receive several gifts? Have you noticed how there often seems to be one or maybe two gifts they go back to, and touch or look at, again and again? There is that special gift that touches their heart. At the time of Cain and Abel, there were no specific laws about sacrifices. Cain had initiated the sacrifice, but there seems to have been a difference in heart-attitude between the two men. God treasured Abel's heart, and the gift that expressed his heart. What does God see as He looks into the hidden depths of your heart?
As you touch or hover over each picture in the four small squares above, they will be magnified in the main square. This demonstrates what happens in our minds; what we focus on becomes enlarged in our minds, to the exclusion of other things. When we get to see a larger frame, and see how the smaller parts fit together, our understanding often shifts.
Prev Next
Focus    on Purpose
If I have faith to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing
© Focus On Purpose July 2017

A Matter of the

Heart

“These people make a big show of

saying the right thing, but their

heart isn’t in it. They act like they’re

worshiping me, but they don’t

mean it.”

(Matthew 15:8 The Message)

What’s in a Gift?

Have you ever received a gift that made you feel as though you had no value in the eyes of the giver? I was once given a half-used bottle of hand cream from a woman for whom I had a high regard. What intensified the sting, was that this woman was an intelligent and wealthy woman. For her not to have given a gift at all, would have been far less hurtful than a half-used bottle of lotion. I have also received gifts like empty match-boxes wrapped in gift-wrap, which I saw as precious, because it was given by my three-year-old cousin who just loved to give presents. It is not the size or value of a gift that is important, but the thought communicated through the gift that brings meaning and value, not so? What do we communicate to God, through the gifts we bring to Him? A Treasured Gift Cain and Abel were Adam and Eve's first sons. Cain worked in the field with his father, while Abel tended sheep. One day Cain decided to offer God a portion of the harvest as a gift. He must have spoken about his desire to bring a sacrifice to God, and so Abel decided to join his brother and bring a gift as well. Cain brought the fruit of the land, and Abel brought some firstborn lambs. God was pleased by Abel's sacrifice, but was not pleased with Cain's - why? Some commentators say that at the time of clothing Adam and Eve, God had shown them the kind of sacrifice He required. They then say that Abel followed God's teaching, while Cain chose to do his own thing. But the Bible does not explicitly tell us that God instituted a law of sacrifices at that time. We are taught that God is the real Author of the Bible. He inspired key people to write according to the Holy Spirit’s leading. If God is the Author, and His desire is to build intimate love relationships with the people He has created, then why would He relate a story in a way that makes Him appear subjective and unfair? Why would God neglect to add key information that will show us why Abel's gift was accepted and appreciated, while Cain's was not? Does this incident not produce a potential barrier to trust, especially for those who have experienced injustice and rejection? When looking at the sacrificial laws given to Moses, we see that these sacrifices are not only blood sacrifices, but there is also instruction for grain offerings and first-fruits offerings. So God is not opposed to the concept of a sacrifice of the fruit of our hands. So, if God is a just and fair God of love, Who does not judge on the basis of personal preference, and there is no mention of sacrificial laws, why did God accept Abel's sacrifice, but reject Cain's? I believe there is something deeper going on here. Beyond Law The Bible tells us that God does not look at our outward behaviour, but He looks at our heart. God says that you cannot judge a person according to his outward behaviour; the true person is reflected in the thoughts of their hearts. Solomon expresses this in Proverbs 23:6-8 : “Do not eat the bread of a selfish man, or desire his delicacies; for as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, "Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you. You will vomit up the morsel you have eaten, and waste your compliments." And also Proverbs 26: 24-25 : "He who hates disguises it with his lips, but lays up (or places) deceit in his heart. When he speaks graciously, do not believe him, for there are seven abominations in his heart." How can we know what was happening in Cain and Abel's hearts? I believe it is revealed in the descriptions of the sacrifices: According to Genesis 4:3, "Cain brought ... of the fruit of the ground." In Genesis 4:4, we are told, "Abel ... brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions."  What is the significance of mentioning the fat portions? Just as in English, the figurative meaning of the Hebrew word for 'fat' is "the choicest part." Abel brought the best of the best. Cain simply brought "of the fruit of the ground." God desires that we love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. What do you give as a gift to someone you love so passionately? A half-used bottle of lotion? Or the best of what you have? God's Response. Did God reject Cain for not selecting from the best of the crop, the 'fat of the land'? The Hebrew words state that God gazed upon Abel and his offering, but He did not gaze upon Cain and this offering. Have you watched people at a time when they receive several gifts? Have you noticed how there often seems to be one or maybe two gifts they go back to, and touch or look at, again and again? There is that special gift that touches their heart. At the time of Cain and Abel, there were no specific laws about sacrifices. Cain had initiated the sacrifice, but there seems to have been a difference in heart-attitude between the two men. God treasured Abel's heart, and the gift that expressed his heart. What does God see as He looks into the hidden depths of your heart?
As you touch or hover over each picture in the four small squares above, they will be magnified in the main square. This demonstrates what happens in our minds; what we focus on becomes enlarged in our minds, to the exclusion of other things. When we get to see a larger frame, and see how the smaller parts fit together, our understanding often shifts.
Prev Next