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The story of Adam and Eve's two sons, Cain and Abel, takes us back to the infancy of humanity. The Earth was not yet full of people, but we had the same problems.
This is a familiar story, so I'll summarize. Cain worked the ground, a farmer, and his younger brother, Abel, kept sheep. After a time (when they were likely adults), they both brought sacrifices to God. Cain brought vegetables, while Abel sacrificed a lamb. God accepted Abel's offering and rejected Cain's. This made Cain very angry—so angry that he killed his brother.
What is implied (but not explicitly stated) is that Cain knew what the sacrifice what supposed to be. Based on the sacrifice God made to clothe Adam and Eve after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, we can surmise that God was expecting an animal sacrifice, not fruits and veggies. Also, we can be pretty certain that the boys had watched their dad sacrifice an animal to God before.
What was Cain's problem? He knew the way sacrifices worked, and surely Abel would have sold him a lamb. So why was he so angry? I believe that he felt inferior to his younger brother. Abel had something that he didn't, and it made him jealous. His pride was wounded when he considered that he would have to trade for something he didn't have so he could make an acceptable sacrifice too.
Like the wicked vine dressers in Matthew 21, Cain plotted in his mind that he could rid himself of Abel and take his flocks for himself. Then he would have as many lambs as he wanted to offer as a sacrifice. His plan worked perfectly, except one thing—the omnipresent God saw what he had done.
Cain became an outcast for the rest of his days.
Now what does this have to do with the church? Let's look at the story again, only this time we'll modernize it. Abel is a pastor, a shepherd. That is what he has been called by God to do. He works tirelessly to care for sheep. Cain runs a farm—planting, growing and harvesting crops. That is what God has called Cain to do. Cain is producing and has the same access to God as Abel, but his position is different.
Now, the way this is supposed to work is: Cain works hard, brings money to Abel, and Abel provides spiritual blessing to Cain. Abel shepherds people; Cain provides for God's house. Cain decides one day he wants to be the pastor and begins to slander Abel. Then he perpetrates a church split and takes some of Abel's flock to his newly started church. Sounds like a story about an angel named Lucifer.
Unfortunately, stories like this are played out across America every year, causing fractures and damage to the body of Christ. You have Cains who aren't satisfied with the positions God has given them, and they begin to rise up and cause division. Abels are wounded, and many get sick of it after a while and leave the ministry.
The body of Christ has many members—many more than just Cain and Abel. I believe God desires to pour out new and unusual anointings on people, but the Cains can easily find themselves out of position if they seek in their hearts to be an Abel. In fact, Cain may be missing the most fulfilling adventure of his life with God, because he is too busy trying to be a pastor or worship leader or prophet or whatever. Each part of the body needs to play its part and be satisfied with the call God has given.
Now the big question: Why was I even thinking about this? I believe I am a Cain. I don't feel like I am called to be a pastor or full-time ministry person. I am called to be a producer and generator of income for the kingdom of God. Unlike the biblical Cain, however, I will have the right attitude and play my part. And I would encourage you to do the same.
Chris Ryser is an author of several e-books, founder of Creative Christian Publishing and blogger. Reach out to Chris on Twitter @chrisryser.
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