Abel is the second son of Adam and Eve. The Hebrew word for Abel is Hebel, which means “vanity”, “weakness”, “vapor”, and “transitory”. These meanings reflect the untimely death of Abel by the hands of his brother Cain. As short his life may have been, we can always derive vital lessons from his short existence.
Summary of Abel’s Life
Abel is a shepherd while his brother is a tiller of the ground. Abel developed faith through the teachings and instructions of his parents (Romans 10:17). The two brothers are trained to properly worship God through giving of offerings.
God is pleased with the burnt offering of Abel. However, Cain had the wrong attitude and motivation when it comes to offering to God. On this account, Cain grew bitter and angry with his brother. From then on, Cain planned to kill his brother and eventually succeeded (Genesis 4:1-16).
Lesson no. 1: God looks in the heart
We may fool other people, but we can NEVER fool God. He sees and knows all things. Though both Abel and Cain came before to the presence of God and brought something to offer, God can see which of them really have the willing heart to give.
We may obey God, but if our heart is not right with him, it is still in VAIN. This is true when we consider the words of the Prophet Samuel when he said, “Behold, to obey [from the heart] is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (I Samuel 15:22).
God knows every intention and motivation that we have. He is not pleased when we offer something to Him while we complain and murmur at the back of our mind. Therefore, pray to God that He will help you have the right heart before you offer your life to God.
Lesson no. 2: Righteousness does not always lead to a good life
While it is true that God promises us abundance and blessings when we obey Him, we must also realize that sometimes we are going to suffer for doing the right thing.
Jesus Christ who lived a perfect life showed us how being righteous led Him to suffer the most gruesome death. We can also read from the Bible many righteous men and women who suffered because of obeying God. Think about Noah, Joseph, Stephen, Paul, John, Peter, James, and others.
In this case, Abel is known to be a righteous man (Hebrews 11:4). However, He was not saved from the evil plans of Cain. Why is this? Honestly, we can never exactly know the answer, but we can have faith in God that He has a plan bigger than anything that we can imagine.
Yes, righteousness can potentially lead to suffering and this will help us further develop a righteous and godly character. God is more concerned about developing our character rather than just giving us a comfortable life that knows not defeat nor suffering.
God wants to make sure that we will all be ready to fill in the role of being kings and priests in His kingdom (Revelation 5:10). Abel’s reward is now sure and he is now waiting for the resurrection of the saints.
Lesson no. 3: Faith comes with action
The life of Abel teaches us that faith is not just a deep or warm feeling inside of us. It is not just a belief in God, but it is a living faith demonstrated through actions.
We must always remember that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26). It is useless to believe in God while our actions tell the opposite. Faith grows by doing and not just believing alone. Of course, faith must start with believing in God (Hebrews 11:6). However, a living faith must go beyond just a mere belief. It must be active, alive, and thriving. This is the kind of faith that Abel had and that is the reason God is pleased with Him.
Lesson no. 4: We must worship God in His own term
Notice what Jesus Christ said in Matthew 7:21-23:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the WILL of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I NEVER knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”.
It is a frightening thought to do a service to God and at the end, it was all in vain. This is what happened to Cain. He worships God according to his own terms rather than according to the will of God. The consequence is dire and fatal. This is the main reason that we must all worship God according to how He wants to be worshiped.
Abel has the right heart and motivation when worshiping God. However, that is not enough. He must also worship God properly and based upon what God demands of him. Many sincere Christians today worship God, but not according to the will of God. Jesus Christ said that we must worship God in truth and in spirit (John 4:23-24).
Lesson no. 5: Being a righteous man is a choice
Abel and Cain grew in the same family. They are brothers and taught by the same parents. But we can see in the story how diametrically different the two were. It is mind-boggling, but it really happens. I John 3:12 tells us that “his own works were evil”.
This shows us that obeying God is a choice. While this is really obvious, I must strongly point this one out. In this life, God gives us a test. Unlike school exams, God already gives us the answer to the test. He said:
“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
It is sad to know though we know the right thing to do, we still choose to go against the will of God. Cain already knew the way to life because his parents taught him. Nevertheless, he chose to rebel against God and kill his brother.
Abel made a choice to become a righteous man. He committed his life to the way of God no matter what happens.
Abel and Cain made a different choice. Abel chose life. Cain chose death. How about you? What will you choose?
Abel is mentioned in the Faith Chapter, Hebrews 11. It is said that “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4).
He was put in that list for a good reason. We can also be part of that list when we learn and apply the lessons we obtain from the life of Abel. May we all have the faith to endure.