|Volume 19 Number 1 January 2017
In elementary school, a holiday typically meant an excuse to eat homemade cupcakes at the end of the day. Further, as a young boy, I always looked forward to that cupcake. Yet, there was one holiday party that involved a quid pro quo for that delicious handheld treat—Valentine’s Day. In exchange for that sweet, you had to give a valentine to every single person in the class. I dreaded the inevitable hand cramp that would certainly come after signing “From Mark” twenty times. It was almost not worth the cupcake. So what’s the story behind the candy hearts and roses and my sore valentine writing hand?
In the early records of the martyrs, three Valentines are mentioned, all dying on February 14th. These all died in third century persecutions. One Valentine, a Roman priest, is said to have sent a letter to a female friend on the day he died (February 14, 269 AD) and it was signed “from your Valentine.” By the eleventh century, a gate in Rome was named after this Valentine. However, it was in France and England a few hundred years later that February 14 became associated with couples in love, due more to the mating habits of birds rather than the third century martyr.
Handmade Valentine’s Day cards were traditional in England, and that tradition continued in Colonial America. In the mid nineteenth century, the New England Valentine Company gave birth to the mass produced greeting card industry. As for Cupid (god of Desire), who today is a much less fearsome character than in Roman mythology, his presence at Valentine’s Day is a holdover from a pagan Roman festival held during mid-February.
Valentine’s Day is a perfect illustration showing how some holidays are the product of a handful of events woven together by traditions and time. Valentine’s Day is a combination of a pagan festival, a Christian legend, bird watching and American capitalism. Similar stories accompany St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Halloween and even Christmas, but to a sentimental person they are simply beloved holidays.
In contrast, the message of Jesus is vastly different. From the fall of man it was prophesied that a unique man would be born to conquer Satan (Genesis 3:15). Over the next four millennia, more than three hundred prophesies described this Messiah. Could you image anticipating President’s Day or Martin Luther King, Jr. Day for thousands of years before celebrating those holidays?
In about thirty years, Jesus fulfilled all of those three hundred plus prophesies. After the Ascension of Christ, the apostles delivered the “traditions” (1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15) of Christianity, and within a span of 30-50 years, inspired men recorded those laws in the New Testament. Even holidays like Independence Day, Memorial Day and Thanksgiving took much longer just to establish as national holidays.
Additionally, Christianity is not a once a year holiday, but rather it is a lifestyle that will reach into eternity. No manmade celebration can match the perfection of the Gospel. So on this Valentine’s Day, remember what a wonderful God we serve, who is love and has done all to show us what love truly is.
Give God the Credit
We live in a busy world! To some, that may sound like an understatement. Due to modernization and the proliferation of fast (and faster!) modes of transportation, mankind can get around at a high rate of speed. My wife says she can visualize the day when we each have our own little “pod” in which we can zip around in the air to where we want to go. I tell her I don’t want to see that day and don’t want to be part of it—it sounds very dangerous! Yes, in our lifetimes we have seen tremendous strides in modes of transportation that travel at high rates of speed. Not only have we seen rapid advancements in the arena of transportation, but consider the areas of technology, science and you name it! You get the picture.
While these advancements have taken place in our lifetime, progress in these areas has always been made in ages past; they just weren’t what we peg as “modern” advancements. Sometimes with modernization comes the feeling that we have done something very special and that men of a particular span of time were or are highly intelligent to have accomplished the advancements mentioned. We think there is no end to what mankind has or will continue to accomplish.
We tend to want to take credit for the modernization of mankind, and we want to leave God out of the picture. However, God is the One responsible for all of these things. We read in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” God created the world in which we live, and He created us. So, what makes us think that we of our own selves have the power to create or make anything? He only allows men to make their advancements. He is still in charge! The Wise Man said, “The Lord has made all things for Himself” (Proverbs 16:4). All means everything!
The “Preacher” said in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “The thing that has been, it is what shall be and that which is done is that which shall be done: there is no new thing under the sun.” He continued this thought in Ecclesiastes 3:15 where it says, “That which has been is now and that which is to be has already been and God requires again that which is past.” We see a cycling of patterns here that still demand that God be given credit for His wondrous creations.
Man will never change God’s ways. Job described man’s relation to God in this way: “There is a spirit in man and the inspiration of the Almighty gives them understanding” (Job 32:8). God provides men with the mentality and the strength to accomplish the things that He allows. No advancements are brought about by men except as God allows. Job went on to say, “Great men are not always wise; neither do the aged understand judgment” (vs. 9). Men are not wise when they want to accept honor and glory for themselves rather than giving honor and glory to God.
Job had quite a bit to say about giving God the glory and credit He deserves. He said, “The Lord gives wisdom; out of His mouth comes knowledge and understanding” (2:6). “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not upon your own understanding… Don’t be wise in your own eyes” (3:5ff).
Whatever men have accomplished has been allowed by God. He is the Creator. He gives men understanding and knowledge to accomplish things in this life, but He never says to give credit to men and glorify them. God expects men to “glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 20). Always give God the credit for advancements!