The story of Cain and Abel is well known; the lesson less so.
Sure, we all know the story—Cain and Abel were brothers who offered sacrifices to the Lord. Cain brought "fruit of the ground” and Abel “brought of the firstlings of his flock.”
“And the Lord had respect unto Abel…but unto Cain he had not respect.”
Later “Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.” (see Gen. 4:3-8)
The entire story in the Bible is told in 16 verses. That is a lot of condensing.
From the book of Moses we learn a bit more about the story. Adam was commanded to “offer the firstlings of their flocks for an offering unto the Lord” in “similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father.”
And “Adam and Eve made all things known unto their sons and daughters.”
That means Cain knew the proper sacrifice needed to be of the firstlings of the flocks. He also knew why...the sacrifices were to be a representation of the coming sacrifice of the Savior in the meridian of time.
When Cain brought the ‘fruit of the ground’ instead, it was because he chose to sacrifice on his terms, not the Lords.
Cain knew the commandments and chose not to keep them.
Oh, sure, we can see an easy parallel with Cain's decision in those who know the commandments but choose not to keep them. Or those who know the Lord has told them to keep the Sabbath Day holy and worship Him but they still don’t go to Church. Many such people honestly believe they are spiritually fine because they say they love or have accepted the Lord in their heart.
We can point invisible fingers at them and say they are offering the "fruit of the ground" to the Savior instead of the "firstlings of the flocks." We can say--and often do in our minds--that most of them could offer the Lord more if they wanted to.
Yet they will continue to offer Him the 'fruits' they choose and to live life according to their terms, not the Lords. Why? Because, ultimately, what they decide to lay on the Lord's altar is their choice.
But the lessons in the Bible are for us---not others. That means the lesson from Cain's experience is our lesson; and many of us are a bit Cainish even if we do go to church. We, too, know what He asks of us and yet we offer something different.
Recall that Cain did bring sacrifices to the Lord. He showed up at Church.
So often we show up at Church and make an effort to worship Him---but we do so on our terms. We come only willing to sacrifice what we think He should accept. We turn down callings or assignments because we don’t want to do them. We refuse to give a talk in Sacrament meeting because we don’t want to. We don’t go home or visiting teaching because we don’t want to. We don’t read the scriptures because we don’t want to.
And the list goes on and on.
Like Cain, our sacrifices come from the ground. With private justifications we try make it appear that our fruit offering is fine. We try to make the Gospel fit our lifestyle rather than make our lifestyle fit the Gospel. Like Cain we often think the Lord should accept what we offer Him, as if He is the one in need of our offerings. Then we get upset with the Lordwhen things don’t work out.
Maybe we need to remember that doing things his way caused Cain to be shut out from the Lord's presence. We can’t live a personal lifestyle and expect to share in His spiritual lifestyle. We must try harder to offer the firstlings of our flocks, the first and finest hours of our time, and the best offerings of our souls.