The Heart of the Matter


We all know the experience of giving gifts. I enjoy searching for just the right thing for the people I love. I’ll sacrifice my time, money, and energy to find what will delight the receiver. Some situations, though, require gifts of obligation—those deemed necessary by rules, social etiquette, or tradition. In those instances, the gift may look good, but I can’t always say that my effort comes from the same motivation. Let’s face it—our giving is affected by our heart and our relationship with the one receiving the gift.

  • Think about the last gift you purchased. What was your motivation for buying the gift and your attitude while buying it?


4:1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. What were the occupations of each brother (vs. 2)? What did each one give as an offering to God, and what was God’s response?
  2. Describe Cain’s reaction to God (vs. 5). How did God respond to Cain’s anger? What was his warning?
  3. Hebrews 11:1-4 tells us that what was commendable about Abel’s gift was not the gift itself but the faith with which it was given by Abel. Are the things that you give to God—your service, sacrifice, worship, and finances—given from your own ability or do they require an act of faith on your part? 
  4. What is one thing you could give to God that would require you to give generously from a place of faith rather than from your own capability?


God is always more interested in the heart than the gift. Hebrews 11:4 tells us “by faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain.” Cain’s heart condition was a lack of faith. He offered in rote acknowledgment instead of adoration. God is always more concerned with the condition of our heart than the content of our offerings, which is why he sent Jesus as the remedy for our sinful hearts. By his perfect sacrifice and our faith in him, we are made acceptable and righteous.

  • Ponder the things you give to God—not just money, but service, sacrifice, and worship. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any wrong motives behind your offerings.
  • Pray for God to show you where you need to give generously, beyond your own ability, as an act of faith in him.