rev-joaquin-willis_web.jpgValentine’s Day provokes thoughts of love.  If you have a valentine, count yourself fortunate.  Some 50 percent of Americans are unmarried, and many suffer the trauma of divorce each year. The number one cause of divorce, experts say, is money. Are love and money incompatible?
In 2010, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, “Fat Tuesday” and Ash Wednesday follow one another on the calendar. Thoughts of love precede reminders of duty and sacrifice.

Mardi Gras (French, literally, for Fat Tuesday) is a time to celebrate, and to let it all hang out before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. 

We customarily sacrifice during the 40 days of Lent, asking ourselves what we should give up. Some vow to abstain from certain habits, foods or pleasures; others spend more time in prayer.

In this year’s challenging economy, God invites us to trust in Him to provide, by increasing our giving to Him. Jesus said “For where your treasure is there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).  In many churches, giving, especially tithing, is controversial. 

This Lent, God is calling forth our “giving principles,” “giving attitudes,” and “giving priorities,” in the interests of serving Him.  If we suspect that we harbor a greater love of money than of Him, it is time to fast from consumerism, and to put more of our hearts into giving to Him.

Many demonstrate “giving principles” through tithing.  Some criticize tithing as an Old Testament, concept, not viable today.  But New Covenant giving is, in fact, no less rigorous, because it demands our all.  Tithing is simple:  we give to God 10 percent, keeping 90 percent for ourselves.  But, as our blessings increase, more is demanded of us.

“Why ten percent?” we ask.  God knew we cannot all give in equal amounts, because our earnings differ.  A ten percent commitment assures that we all love and give to Him equally.  A $100 gift could represent one percent for some families, but twenty or thirty percent of weekly income for others.

It is our “giving attitudes” that are important, more so than the amount given, or obedience to principle.  Christ, in Mark (12:41-44), praises the “giving attitude” of the poor widow because she gave sacrificially, but He mocks the gifts of the wealthy, which represent no real sacrifice from them.

We must align our “giving priorities” with our faith.  We are to give to Him our first fruits.  On payday, our first act should be to give Him financial thanks, before employing money elsewhere.  We should put a “love check,” or cash offering, into our bibles for later disbursal at a House of Prayer.

There can be no fellowship between God, whose heart is ablaze with love, and a man whose heart is frozen by possessory thoughts of money.   Scripture teaches that attitude is all-important in giving. 

We might ask “Where should we give our gift or tithe?” “Should we give to organizations, and not to the church?”  I would respond:  We tithe to God, and we should always give to God, and in the place where we are blessed.  We should give wherever God enhances our joy in giving because, as Paul says, in II Corinthians (9:7), “God loves a cheerful giver.”

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at 6001 NW 8th Ave., Miami.  To contact the church, call 305-759-0373 or email the pastor at pastoropendoorc@bellsouth.net.