Essays on Faith – Abel

The word faith conjures up so many different pictures in today’s culture. But what does it mean in regards to God? Hebrews 11 walks us through both definitions and depictions of faith and sends us back to the Old Testament for more context. “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.” (Heb 11:4).

What made Abel stand out? Why does his faith still speak, though he is dead? Both brothers gave God an offering. What made Abel’s better? Abel gave God the best and first results of his labor. That is the only context in which his actions are even mentioned in the Bible. So, what does it mean to give God the first and best offering of my life?

My conditioned response is to first think about money and wonder if I have given enough. But money is one of the easier things to give. Compared to most cultures, it’s a renewable resource for us Americans and takes little time to give away. Although tithing challenges me on big items (like proceeds from the sale of my house) and small (like the first trickle of my new business income) it’s become such a normal part of my life that I don’t even think about it anymore. So, if the discipline of tithing is there, what resonates in my heart this week as an offering to God?

These questions circle through my mind as I struggle to take the time early in my schedule to write. It would be so much easier to cross a few things off my to do list so I can feel more accomplished and less stressed before tackling this blog. But that would result in just some of the fruit of my labor, like Cain’s offering.

This deliberate wrestling with these questions at the beginning of my week shows my struggle with priorities. My fledgling business is clamoring for my attention. My body, tired from recent stress and travel, just wants to turn everything off and turn in early. But my heart know that this is my offering to God. This fight to meditate and process and apply costs me something that I can’t replace. This is my first and my best this week. The remainder, though still important, fades into routine marching orders.

But what does this have to do with faith? Why is this story first in the Faith Hall of Fame of Hebrews? Why is Abel’s offering a significant example of faith? What does that word mean? “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” By faith, I offer God something that costs me, something that I cannot replace. By faith, I accept the validity of grace I cannot see.

It takes faith to offer anything. It’s leaning in and leaning on. It’s taking a chance. If I give out of my bounty, I’m simply sharing out of my abundance. But when I offer my best, it costs me dearly. I’m vulnerable. I cannot replace my best and first.

What I offer God reveals my level of faith in God.

When I offer him my first and best, I trust that He will make the rest enough, whether time, money, or some other resource. With offering my best and first to God, I’m placing my faith and the full weight of my life in his promises. And this is not on the grounds of merit, hoping to earn his approval with my doing. This is out of gratitude and humility. He is both my source and my goal. I stop and acknowledge that. And I offer back both first and best.

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