Although Cain and Abel offered, there’s nothing to say that God had requested. Then judging by what God required by the law of Moses, the best of Abel’s flock would have been received, killed and burnt, with the remains given away or discarded. No blue ribbons. No compensation. No applause. But in the story, God did little and said nothing. He only looked at Abel’s offering while ignoring Cain’s entirely.
Are these really two different responses with the same intent? If so, Abel must have understood as did Isaiah, “…all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Is. 64:6) This then, would be the “better sacrifice” noted in Hebrews 11:4—and righteousness indeed is never earned. But even a glance is better than to be ignored when someone’s looking for recognition. This would not go over well with Cain.
In an age of winning and ranking and self-esteem, it’s humbling to know there is nothing to offer, only to receive.
Sorry little drummer boy, this isn’t about you.