The story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4:1-8 is one of those passages that has raised several questions in my head and heart. In this passage, Cain and Abel bring their offerings to God. Abel’s offering is accepted, and Cain’s is not. It ends in the death of Abel and the banishment of Cain. Every time I read this story, I look up from my Bible and ask God, ‘what the heck happened here?’
Whenever I come to a difficult passage of scripture, I do my best to dive deeper into that particular story or moment. I try to look at things from all perspectives and try to immerse myself in the narrative. As I read the Cain and Abel passage again this week, I asked myself, what would it be like if I was Cain? Among many feelings, I wondered if Cain felt like he was in competition with Abel. I wondered if he walked up to the altar that day feeling like God was either going to accept his gift of produce or Abels’ gift of a sacrificed lamb, but certainly not both. If Cain did feel like he had to compete for God’s approval and attention, then he and I have some common ground. In fact, for me, the context of worship has always been a place where I have had to fight the competitive spirit.
From the very first days of leading worship at CRC, there was a small part of me that felt like I was competing with the other worship leaders. I did everything I could to cover this feeling up. And understand me, the competition was not just about songs or time on the mic…it was a competition for the attention, acceptance and favor of God. In my mind, there was only so much of it to go around. Somehow, I thought God had a limited attention span. I could hear the Holy Spirit saying the same words to me that God said to Cain in the passage: “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” (Genesis 4:7) The truth was that God had more than enough favor to pour out on the worship leaders, choir and band. I had a hard time believing that God’s favor and acceptance was (and still is) abundant and unlimited. I just could not see it. In this and many of situations I had a mentality of scarcity.
Whenever we begin to think that a resource is in limited supply, we enter into a mentality of scarcity. It is not a bad mindset, unless you are wrong in your assessment. And if there is anything in all of creation that is unlimited, it is the love, grace, mercy, and yes ATTENTION, FAVOR and ACCEPTANCE of God, specifically for those who are embracing what He has done for us in Jesus Christ. All too often, I walk in and out of situations with an unconscious thought: There is only room for one of us to truly be noticed by God. Maybe this is the way Cain felt. Maybe that is why his reaction to the moment was so severe that he killed his own brother. That is what scarcity does to us…you will eventually take out anyone and anything that looks like competition.
Thankfully, my story of worship, scarcity and God’s favor ended better than Cain’s story. God spent years working that dangerous mentality out of me. I began to see that when we worshipped together as a team, God was glorified and the favor of God seemed to overflow. I began to find great joy in watching others take the lead as I stood behind them. To my surprise, singing backing vocals for new worship leaders who were finding their voice became some of my favorite moments of worship. No scarcity meant no need to feel like there was a competition. God had (and still has) more than enough attention, acceptance and favor for all of us. So I did not have to fight for it…it was already mine in Jesus Christ.
I am still learning this lesson. I am learning that there is more than enough favor for all of the campus ministries in Northeast Florida to be successful. There is enough attention coming from God for all of the churches in Jacksonville to make their budgets plus some. There is more than enough grace for every kingdom initiative to go forward without feeling like God only has enough time, power and resources for a selected few. We can pursue our calling and offer our gifts to a God who has more than enough rewards for all of us.
What ever you are doing for the cause of King and His Kingdom, let’s do it with an attitude that God has more than enough favor to pour out on our work. Let’s leave behind the kind of limited and scarce mentalities that produces a competitive spirit in our hearts. In the kingdom, we have no competitors, only brother and sisters…fellow worshippers of an amazing, abundant God.