Friday, January 25, 2013

Blessed is the Rugged Man?: Pursuing God Through the Vocation He Has Called You to

As a new year dawns, most of us are beginning our Bible reading plans. However ambitious or realistic we were in choosing a plan most of us will be reading through Genesis this month. Something that has been a real object of wonder and anxiety in my heart when I read through the beginning of Genesis is the story of Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel are two brothers (maybe twins, maybe not depending on who you ask) who are invested in different vocations. Abel was the rugged man; the man who was out in the field tending the flocks and putting literal meat on the table. I like to think he was probably fighting off wolves and lions to ensure his flock's safety (1 Samuel 17:36). Cain, on the other hand, was a man with a different calling. His calling was to produce. And this is where the problem arises for me. Did God simply choose the man's sacrifice who had the better calling in life?

Note: I am reading the chronological bible plan. If you want to join click here! Or just check it out.

Do not get me wrong, I am aware that hours of hard work go into farming. Tilling the ground after the fall is intentionally difficult for man and this is not the place for arguments about the masculinity of one trade over another. But, my first reaction is always to feel like there was something physically more pleasing about the sacrifice Abel gave. Was God simply more pleased with meat than veggies? I mean meat has always been more difficult for humans to make a stable part of their diet, the yield of the field is what people in third world countries must survive on and meat is only a welcome delicacy on their table. So when God had regard for Abel's sacrifice and not Cain's I always feel a little down. "Poor guy," says my heart, " he was just doing the best he could. I mean look, he brought his offering and it's not his fault the lentil's were small that year." But this is not the correct way to respond to this passage and the key is proper Biblical hermeneutics. 

1. When I keep reading (using the hermeneutic principle of immediate context) I find that God makes no real statement of sin on the part of Cain's physical sacrifice. Instead, he warns Cain that sin is in fact "crouching at the door; and it's desire is for him." God even asks Cain why he is angry and why he has responded so irrationally. God's lack of regard for Cain's offering does not seem to be an attempt to try and illicit some response from Cain. God was not saying that Abel had chosen the better vocation. He was saying that Abel had chosen the better attitude. Faith.

2.In Hebrews 11 (using the hermeneutic principle of using scripture to interpret scripture) we find that Abel had offered a better sacrifice because of faith and not because he had the preferred occupation. God's acceptance of Abel's gift was out of a warm love for the faith the Abel had when he gave his offering. Not his superior career ladder.
"By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks." Hebrews 11:4
In Genesis God even exhorts Cain to continue on and learn from the experience rather than get angry with God and jealous of his brother. Promising Cain "if you do well, surely you will be accepted". God is instructing Cain to come in faith the next time, not to change jobs. We see in this passage God's willingness to accept our sacrifices if done in faith. If we are in very different situations and have different interests than our brothers and sisters, it is not the vocation or the disposition of the person that effects God's blessing; it's faith.

Another set of brothers comes on the scene twenty-one chapters later and this time the rugged man is in need of faith. "Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a peaceful man living in tents" Genesis 25:27. Jacob would go on to father the twelve tribes of Israel and share direct lineage with Christ, and then Esau would father many nations that would go on to clash with Israel (Edomites). Here we see that the more mild brother (if we can make that assumption) was chosen by God to exhibit faith and the literally hairy chested and rugged man was not chosen.

So what can we conclude from these two sets of brothers who exhibited different interests and characteristics that they carried with them into their livelihood? That the rugged man is as well off as the less rugged. Pursue God in faith and pray that He would put you into the place in life that He wants you and then by faith offer your gifts and honor to God. Trust that your vocation is just as pleasing as another brother or sister's because God desires faith above everything, including ruggedness.