Monday, January 18, 2016

Moses 5:18-22 -- On Responsibility and Offerings

"And Cain loved Satan more than God. And Satan commanded him, saying: Make an offering unto the Lord.
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. Now Satan knew this, and it pleased him. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
And the Lord said unto Cain: Why art thou wroth? Why is thy countenance fallen?"
Moses 5:18-22

The Cain-Abel story is one that most of us are familiar with... the story of the first murderer.  I like this version of it in the Pearl of Great Price though, because it reveals some important details that aren't in the Genesis version of the story.  I think we get a clearer picture about why God didn't accept Cain's offering.  For instance, knowing that Cain loved Satan more than God and that Satan is the one that told him to make the offering in the first place.  I think the question from God is one that we need to think about as well.  A lot of times, like Cain, we get angry at God about something that *we* did wrong.  We have some weird idea that God should accept our lazy, misguided, and really bad offerings just because he loves us.  And God doesn't, and he won't, because he wants us to learn to do better.  He tells us "If thou doest well, thou shalt be accepted. And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door" (Moses 5:23; see also Genesis 4:7).  But we're mad because the whole learning thing reeks of effort and Satan just accepts us the way we are.  ... And we're confused, and we think that that's the way life should be.  We shouldn't have to work for anything or put forth effort.  We should be good enough as is.  And it is a really scary deception that Satan is throwing at us, because he twists it enough to make it sound reasonable.  As though self-worth and education were the same thing, and our inherent value as people and our need to grow and learn and become were tied up with each other.  So, let's pull the lies back apart and untwist them a little.  God loves us enormously... more than we can imagine.  And like any parent, he isn't going to stop loving us if we make a mistake.  But, also like a parent, he isn't going to praise his little girl coming home from school with Ds and Fs on her kindergarten report card when he knows that she can do better.  He's going to tell her to put in more effort, and ask her to do better and learn more.
Life is like that.  God loves us deeply as his children, but he doesn't say that good and bad are the same.  He asks us to be good and work to be better, rather than accepting idleness and lack of progress.  He asks us to take some personal responsibility for the offerings that we place before him, and wants us to invest some time and effort into getting it right.  Today, let's stop being angry, as Cain was, when God asks us to do better than flunking out of kindergarten.  Let's instead jump in and learn more and figure out how to do as God asks.  He isn't asking to torture us... he's asking so that we can grow up and get to the next grade, and the next, and eventually learn to be cool like he is. :)

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