“It is more blessed to give than to receive” – Acts 20:35
Yesterday I witnessed this truth in action. My dad, standing in front of our church congregation, announced that a wonderful project is coming to fruition. My Dad, my Mom, and a committee of hard-working volunteers have been preparing to welcome a Syrian refugee family to our community, and after weeks of preparation, this week the family will arrive.
My Dad choked back tears as he made the announcement. The committee has worked tirelessly raising money, gathering furnishings for an apartment, and filling out the appropriate paperwork. They wanted so badly to help, and now their work is finally coming to fruition. My father’s tears were an expression of the intense happiness he was feeling that he just couldn’t contain any more.
The quote at the top of this post is line from the bible that is probably very familiar to you whether you are a person of faith or not. It’s been co-opted and used in countless contexts to teach us the value of generosity.
Everything from ad campaigns to school textbooks, variations on this phrase have been used to teach us about giving. Yet often I think we forget the quote really means.
When I used think about that quote I would often think it meant that it was “better”, “holier”, “kinder” to give than to receive. In other words, I thought it was a duty that I was “supposed” to fulfill do to be a good person. I’m now realize that I was missing something.
The word “blessed” in the bible translates most accurately to “happy”. So the quote above means that people who are givers are HAPPIER than those who receive. That changes the meaning entirely for me.
It means that the advice to give is then not some obligation or criteria for being a good person, but rather it is helpful guidance on how to be happier. What if you didn’t think of giving as a duty or obligation, but as an ingredient to living a happy life? How would that change your approach to giving?
It won’t be easy, because our culture teaches us exactly the opposite lesson. Watch TV, pick up a magazine, scroll Facebook, and what do you see? You’ll see countless invitations to focus on getting rather than giving. Who do we hold up as role models and heroes in our culture? Athletes, actresses and actors and musicians.
We want to know what car is so and so driving? What is so-and-so wearing? Take a tour of so-and-so’s multi million-dollar mansion! Reads one headline. Have so-and-so’s wardrobe reads another. Whether we recognize it or not, we’re being subtly taught that the way to happiness is more, better, more expensive, stuff. It’s sad.
It’s sad because it doesn’t work. The pursuit of more never ends with happiness. That isn’t opinion researched fact.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with having some nice stuff. Its entirely possible to go too far with this idea and think that there is something inherently wrong with having nice things. You see that in our culture too. People want to condemn those who have nice things out of jealousy. Owning things is fine. When your things own you though, you have a problem. Like everything in life, balance is the key.
Here then, are 3 things to help you be a more generous person:
1. Giving May be Uncomfortable: When you act contrary to such a pervasive message as consumerism it’s sure to sting. You may doubt yourself. You may encounter mockery, or rejection from others. You may wonder if you’re missing out on something. You’re not. Having a nice TV is fine, but having another, bigger, nicer one, won’t make you happier.
2. Giving is About Far More Than Money: You may feel that you don’t have anything to give but I know you do. Giving doesn’t have to cost you a dime financially. There are many ways to give that extend beyond money. Give a smile to a stranger. Give a hug to someone who needs one. Give of your time to a community group looking for volunteers. Give your ear to someone who is lonely and needs someone to talk to. Giving opportunities are everywhere.
3. Giving Chances the Giver and the Receiver: When we give we know that it will help someone else. What we often forget is that is will help us just as much, if not more. The best way to put a smile on your face, is to put one on someone else’s face.
What is 1 way you can be more generous this week?