Offering time. Hurry, because the collection plate's coming down the row. Time to dig through the pockets and purse. Let's see, here's some lint, a twenty, some fives, and ones. But church is about to get out and I'm starved. I need the twenty and a couple of fives to buy lunch for me and the family. I'll keep the other fives for the children's school lunch money. So here are a couple of ones and the lint, God.
"Now Abel was a keeper of sheep" (Genesis 4:2).
In fact, Abel was the proud owner of Fluffy, blue-ribbon winner of sheep shows, cover lamb for Sheep Beautiful magazine, and trophy winner of the Grand National Sheep Show. Yes, Fluffy was what every sheep aspires to be. Abel also owned Buffy, Ruffy, Puffy, and six other sheep. Ten total.
So what did Abel do? He slit Fluffy's throat, poured Fluffy's blood on the altar, and burned Fluffy as incense to God. Then Abel, who'd just sacrificed his most-prized sheep as his tithe, looked over his flock again and brought his next-best sheep as an offering beyond his tithe.
In fact, had there been neighbors, Abel would've tossed some briquettes on the grill, barbecued Buffy, and served "lamburgers" to the poor folks, because Abel loved his neighbor as himself. Would Abel's generosity have forced him to declare bankruptcy and take up residence in the poor house? No, because you can't outgive God. But that's another lesson.
"And Abel brought of the firstborn of his flock and of the fat portions. And the Lord had respect and regard for Abel and for his offering" (Genesis 4:4).
God doesn't accept all offerings, prayers or praise. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Psalms 66:18). "He who turns away his ear from hearing the law of God and man, even his prayer is an abomination, hateful and revolting to God" (Proverbs 28:9). God looks at our hearts as we bring our tithes and offerings, prayers and praise.
Malachi 1:8: "And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Present such a thing now to your governor. Will he be pleased with you? Or will he receive you graciously? says the Lord of hosts." So even if you bring the right amount with the wrong attitude, God does not "receive you graciously."
I suspect a lot of us need to repent for our less-than-generous, begrudging, lint-giving attitude of ingratitude. Then, in all humility, reverence, enthusiasm, and thanksgiving, we need to bring Fluffy to the altar.
June Seabaugh is a member of Christ Church of the Heartland in Cape Girardeau.