Small Group Lesson One – A Personal Study Guide to Accompany “Living Generously: First”

Read Genesis 4:3-7

We assume these five small words in English to be rather unimportant. They sound, at first glance, to be a casual way to introduce the story we are about to encounter. Much like fairy-tales begin with “Once upon a time”. However, if we pause for a moment we see Cain’s “flaw in the intention of the giver” (see note on Gen. 4:5). Perhaps these five words give us a bit of a glimpse into the mind and heart of Cain, and maybe ourselves.

Verse 3 (especially when compared to v. 4) seems to suggest, at the very least, that giving was not a priority for Cain, both in WHEN he gave and in WHAT he gave. He gave when he “got a round to it”. He gave something, but the sacrificial aspect in his giving must have been missing.

All of these reflect the poor condition of Cain’s heart.

We often seek to cover up the condition of our hearts with an excuse. That’s what happens in Genesis 3:12 when God inquires to Adam about why he’s recently discovered his nakedness. “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” The woman follows the same thought when she says, “The serpent deceived me…” What did Adam and Eve do? They tried to cover their sin by clothing themselves and hiding from God’s presence. What was David’s initial reaction upon learning that Bathsheba had become pregnant? He sought to cover up his rebellion.

Too often, our first inclination is to respond to sin by 1) covering it up, and 2) making excuses. 

Can we be honest for a moment? What excuses do you use for not giving?

1) I can’t pay my monthly bills as it is, much less give any extra. We often quirk, “There’s too much month at the end of the money?”

2) I need just a little more income, then I’ll be able to give. Maybe you tell yourself that you’ll start giving when your financial situation improves.

3) I plan on giving as soon as I pay off _________.

4) My past financial mistakes keep me from giving.

This list could keep going I’m sure. We don’t have time to dive into each and every excuse. Let’s just summarize be noting, “Any excuse will do when you’re looking for one.” 

Paul said, “in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money…(2 Tim. 3:1-5). Here again, we see Paul linking together money and the heart. If we’re honest, let’s just admit that the absense of giving is a symptom of a deeper problem.