The first act of violence occurred when Cain murdered Abel over the reception of their gift to God. Genesis 4 records for us the account of what happened. Abel’s gift was received by the Lord while Cain’s was rejected. God is never capricious and there’s a definite reason why Abel’s gift was received while Cain’s wasn’t. The primary reason had to do with the “Principle of the First”, in that Abel brought a first fruit while Cain brought an offering from amongst all that he had.
Nonetheless, Cain’s response also spoke loudly about his true intentions and motivation behind the gift that he brought. In truth, if our desire is truly to give something to another, we’d seek to give something that the recipient would want. If our intentions were truly altruistic, then the right response when our gift is rejected would be to seek out what we needed to do for our gifts to be accepted. We’d find out what the recipient truly wants or needs and adjust our gifts accordingly.
However, all too often, we give with an intention to receive something in return. It may be recognition, appreciation or acceptance. We may give something in order to acquire the favour and goodwill of another or to get into their good books, so to say. In the worst case, we give in order to control others by laying on them a sense of obligation or indebtedness to us.
The nature of God’s giving is generous and without ill-intent. Scriptures tell us that while we were yet sinners, in ignorance and in opposition to Him, He gave His own Son to die for us. In the grand scheme of things, God realises that despite all that He’s done for the world, many would still reject Him and His Messiah. Yet Jesus willingly came and paid a price sufficient for ALL. Again in Matthew 5:45, we’re told that God causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall on both good and evil. This typifies the goodness of God to which we’re called to emulate.
With this understanding, I can be certain that all our giving will be tested. What God is after is not just the act, but He’s after the heart. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that we can give all we have to the poor, but if love is absent in our giving, then all that would have counted for naught. To me, that’s a staggering statement that should make me reconsider and examine my heart. What a waste it’d be to have paid such a great sacrifice and then for it to amount to nothing in the eyes of God. What it tells me as well is that instead of considering if we’re giving to a right cause, what’s more fundamental is to consider the attitude of our giving.
The great point of revelation in 1 Corinthians 13 is that “love never fails”. This is a conclusive and comprehensive statement from the heart of God, which He Himself has stepped out to express to all mankind. Imagine the great council of God that took place before Christ was sent on the earth. The agenda on hand is to consider the great endeavour of all the ages – the sending of Christ as the Saviour of the world.
If God functions the way we do, then He’d without doubt have included an accountant in the council to measure the cost and benefits of such a move. Is the yield commensurate with the outlay? As an accountant by training, I’m quite certain the accountant would’ve looked at the cost that Christ had to pay and the returns that mankind would yield back to Him and concluded such a move was a very bad investment. But the point of revelation and the nature of God that speaks louder is that “love never fails”. When we invest in love, the yields and the results will always be beyond our imagination and comprehension!
Stewardship and responsibility are all essential and of vital importance. But let’s not put the cart before the horse. The horse remains useful without the cart, but the cart loses all its purpose without the horse. Likewise, without love, all the giving and stewardship has no more meaning and purpose. Giving is such an important Christian concept not because God needs our money. Rather, it’s because we desperately need to give for the redemption and formation of our character, and for love to be formed, fashioned and polished. Love truly never fails. When it comes to loving, conventional accounting will not work. We just need to know that this is an eternal law that originates in the heart and nature of God for HE IS LOVE.