Why did God reject Cain’s offering?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Have you ever wondered why God did not accept Cain’s offering? Was it because, as some suppose, Cain had a bad attitude? If not, what was the reason for God rejecting Cain’s offering? In addition, what lesson can we learn from this Old Testament historical narrative? We will be Bereans, and search the Scriptures for answers to these fascinating questions (Acts 17:10-11).

Doubtless everyone who grew up in or around Christian churches or groups has heard of brothers Cain and Abel. While what happened between the two is common knowledge, the warfare associated with the story is largely overlooked. Sadly, the eternally significant part of the narrative is largely unknown! Dear readers, many billions of souls could have avoided a devil’s everlasting hell in which they now suffer, had they only critically considered and believed the lesson taught by the events of Genesis 4:1-8. It thus behooves us to survey and evaluate these verses.

Genesis chapter 4 opens: “[1] And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. [2] And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” This is rather simple to get. We need no theological degree or high IQ to understand that Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain the farmer and Abel the shepherd. Verses 3-5 continue: “[3] And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. [4] And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: [5] But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.”

When it came time to sacrifice to God, “Cain brought fruit of the ground,” but “Abel…brought the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering, he had not respect….” Why did God accept Abel’s offering, but reject Cain’s? Hebrews 11:4, written some 4,000 years later, testifies: By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.” How could Abel’s sacrifice be “more excellent than Cain?”

After sin entered the world by Adam (Romans 5:12), God demanded blood sacrifices for atonement (to make God and sinner “at one”). God shed innocent blood to cover Adam and Eve’s sin (Genesis 3:21). Outside of our dispensation, and before Christ came, those who wanted a right standing before God—”righteousness”—had to offer blood sacrifices by faith. “…[W]ithout the shedding of blood is no remission [forgiveness]” (Hebrews 9:22b). Cain had no faith, so he ignored God’s instructions and brought no blood. He brought the fruit (crops) of his own work, but Abel, by faith, brought blood sacrifices (obeying God). God accepted Abel’s sacrifice because Abel had faith! However, God rejected Cain’s sacrifice. Cain should not have been upset. He knew exactly what God wanted, and he knew God did not instruct him to bring an offering from the ground.


We are some 6,000 years removed from Cain and Abel, and yet that story teaches us a valuable lesson of eternal worth.

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain…” (Hebrews 11:4). The LORD gave Cain and his brother Abel clear instructions. Only Abel did what God said because only he believed what God said. Abel, a shepherd (Genesis 4:2), “brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof” (verse 4a). Cain, a farmer (verse 2), “brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD” (verse 3).

Notice what Abel brought—a sheep, a blood sacrifice, and its fat, which is what God said to do. Observe what Cain brought—something he grew. Cain had probably slaved away watering that crop, weeding that patch of ground, and so on. Cain brought the very “best” he could bring—it was the work of his own hands. He rationalized, “Surely, God will accept this fruit of the ground. He knows I put so much effort into it. How can He say no?” When Cain saw the fire of God come down from heaven and consume his brother’s sacrifice, and yet nothing happened to his sacrifice, Genesis 4:5 tells us that Cain grew very upset. “How dare You, God! It was my very best, and You do not want it!” Cain probably threw a tantrum and cursed. Eventually, filled with that religious rage, he murdered Abel (verse 8).

Cain symbolizes today’s average religious person, who refuses to do what God’s Word says: “Trust in the finished crosswork of Christ alone and I will save you.” Like Cain, they offer “their absolute best”—tithes, water baptism, acts of charity, penance, church membership, et cetera—things God never commanded them to do for salvation! Those things are “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) when compared to Jesus Christ’s perfect sacrifice of Himself. And when they die, like Cain, they will be greatly disappointed.


God instructed Cain and Abel to bring blood sacrifices. However, only Abel obeyed God because he alone had faith. Cain lacked faith, so he completely ignored God’s Word. Cain wanted to do what Cain wanted to do. This is typical human nature, and it has not changed one wit. Man is naturally sinful in that he seeks autonomy—to be his own god and to do what he wants to do. “Cain… was of that wicked one [Satan!]… his own works were evil, and his brother’s [Abel’s] righteous” (1 John 3:12). Now, Cain’s vegetation offering did not look evil—it was just “fruit of the ground” (Genesis 4:3). Yet, despite its innocent appearance, it was evil and God rejected it. How was it evil? God wanted blood sacrifices, not crops! Cain displeased God because he had no faith (Hebrews 11:6).

Now, apply that scenario to today. Billions of church members are doing everything they can to work for heaven. Like Cain, they completely ignore God’s Word when it says their “good” works are actually “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) and “dung” (Philippians 4:8). They give faithfully, pray daily, attend church weekly, help the poor, clean the church, sing in the choir, and so on. Sadly, this is vain activity, for God never commanded them to work for heaven!

In this the Dispensation of Grace, God is freely offering His grace, love, mercy, forgiveness, salvation, acceptance, fellowship, and righteousness in the Person of His Son Jesus Christ. “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him [Jesus Christ] that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness (Romans 4:5). Salvation is so simple, yet religion complicates it with our works. We sinners cannot work for salvation. The Bible says the only way to heaven, and everlasting salvation, is to trust in what Jesus Christ already did for you, not what you can do for Him.

According to God, Abel brought “of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof” whereas his brother Cain offered “fruit of the ground” (Genesis 4:3-4). Cain’s offering appeared innocent, but God considered it “evil” (1 John 3:12). Why? “Without faith, it is impossible to please him [God]” (Hebrews 11:6). Cain did not please God. He did not believe anything God said, so he ignored God’s command to bring a blood sacrifice. No blood sacrifice indicated no faith. Essentially, Cain was ignoring what that blood sacrifice represented: the blood of the coming Redeemer Jesus Christ!

Sadly, today, mankind generally shares Cain’s attitude in refusing to believe God’s Word, especially regarding salvation. God has told them they are “guilty” sinners who cannot work for salvation, but they refuse to listen. God wants them to trust in His Son alone, but they want to trust in their works and His Son. God will not have it. Jesus Christ is “well pleasing” to God the Father, we are not (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 12:18; Matthew 17:5; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).

Please be not one of the billions of precious souls attempting to appease God and merit salvation and heaven with their “good” works. Like Cain’s offering, this “innocent-looking” activity is evil! (Remember, even Jesus claimed some “good” works were “iniquity” in Matthew 7:22-23). These “good-works” people are attempting to substitute Christ’s perfect blood sacrifice on Calvary with their “dung” and “filthy rags” (their “good” works). God will not have it. God wants our faith exclusively in what His Son Jesus Christ did for us. Has Jesus Christ’s blood been imputed to your account? If it has, that blood applied to you indicates your faith! If Jesus’ blood has not been imputed to you, you need to trust exclusively in the Lord’s finished crosswork on Calvary. For salvation, God will accept nothing else but your faith resting in Christ Jesus alone.

Also see:
» We are saved by faith, but are we blessed by works?
» Why did God demand blood sacrifices? (COMING SOON!)
» How can a loving God send people to hell forever? (COMING SOON!)