There’s a seemingly crazy statement of Jesus that we find in Scripture, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). But when we dig a little deeper, Jesus’ statement isn’t crazy; it’s divine. Here are five ways that giving makes you happier.
1). Giving actually makes you happier. The Wall Street Journal, hardly a theological or pro-Christian publication, ran an intriguing article titled “Hard-Wired for Giving.” And here’s the tagline and I love this: Contrary to conventional wisdom that humans are essentially selfish, scientists are finding that the brain is built for generosity. Now, they’re not willing to come out and say who hard-wired for generosity, but I think you and I can say who: it’s God. Here’s what they discovered, when a person donates to a worthy cause, the mid-brain region of the brain lights up like a Christmas tree. Chemicals are released in your brain and you actually feel happier. Just for reference, it’s the same region of the brain that lights up when (and they make this analogy, not me), when you eat chocolate or make babies. We’re literally hard-wired to be generous and feel pleasure when we tap into how God made us. That’s the first reason. It’s more blessed to give than to receive. You’re happier when you give.
2). Giving loosens the grip of selfishness on your heart. Giving is the antidote to greed. You know this from experience. If you want to be miserable (which is the opposite of happy or blessed), then be selfish. Think about the most selfish, greedy person you know. They don’t give anything to anyone. You know to not even ask them if you need anything, because the answer will be ‘no.’ Are they usually happy? No, usually they’re the most miserable people you know. Why? Because greed is a cancer that will eat you up from the inside out and destroy everything good about you if you let it. When you give, it’s literally like you’re releasing the negative toxins and you’re keeping a hard shell of selfishness and greed from encasing your heart. It’s more blessed to give than to receive. You’re happier when you give.
3). Giving strengthens social bonds and deepens human relationships. When you become a generous person, it seeps over into your relationships with other people. When you become a generous person, it doesn’t just stop with money. You become generous with your time and with your talents. That’s why researchers from the University of Notre Dame took did a nationwide research project and discovered that people who described their lives as “very happy” volunteer an average of 5.8 hours per month and people who described their lives as “unhappy” volunteer an average of 0.6 hours per month. Just think about it. If you were choosing who you wanted to spend an afternoon with, a person who was known to be stingy, self-centered and greedy or a person who was generous and giving, who would you want to hang out with? The generous person. Not even with the expectation that you’d get anything. They’re just better people to hang around. When you develop a life of generosity, people will want to hang around you more, not because they want a hand out but because generous people are better to hang around with. You’ll have more relationships and deeper friendships. If you’re greedy and self-centered, people will avoid you and you’ll live a life of isolation. Being generous makes you happier because it strengthens and deepens your bonds with other people. It’s more blessed to give than to receive. You’re happier when you give.
4). When you give your heart gets caught up in something bigger. Let’s say you had $100 a week that you could do whatever you wanted with it. There are a lot of things that you could do. You could take your whole family out to a nice meal. That would make you happy. You could go on a mini-shopping spree and buy an outfit or two. That would make you happy, for a little while. You could save that $100 and in two months you could buy the new iPhone 7, which would make you happy for a year until the iPhone 7s came out. But what if you decided to invest that $100 in something bigger than yourself? What if you started contributing to a non-profit that built wells in Africa and gave clean water to underprivileged communities? 1 out of every 10 people on this planet don’t have access to clean water. Which means that in Africa women spend 40 billion hours a year just walking to go get water. That’s 40 billion years where they can’t get an education because they spend hours a day walking to go get water. And when they get water it’s dirty water that makes them sick. Diseases from dirty water kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. 43% of those deaths are children under five years old. Access to clean water and basic sanitation can save around 16,000 lives every week. So what if you took that $100 a week and did something about that? What if after a year or two of saving you actually donated enough to build a well in a village. Let’s say it’s just a small village. That would still save one life a month. That well would allow dozens of women to actually go to school because they had the time, changing the trajectory of their entire lives and every generation that comes after them. Every month, you could walk around thinking, “I saved someone’s life this month. A little girl has an opportunity for an education because of my well.” Does that seem a little bigger, a little more meaningful than another night out on the town or an outfit that you’ll only wear twice? When you give, your heart gets caught up in something bigger. It’s more blessed to give than to receive. You’re happier when you give.
5). When you give you connect with your divine identity. This is when we begin to move from the natural to the supernatural. As the Wall Street Journal itself reports, we are hard-wired to give. When we give and begin to live a life of generosity, we tap into our divine identity. How so? When we give, we’re more like God, because God at his core is a giver. What does the most famous verse in the Bible say? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
Do you want to become like God? Become a giver. God is a giver. God is generous, and we celebrate that generosity, that grace, every time we come together. When we connect to our divine identity, we begin to unlock that blessedness, that divine happiness, that God wants all of us to experience.
Should Christians participate in a holiday that has its roots in pagan traditions? Whether it’s Halloween or some of the pagan elements in the Americanized versions of Christmas and Easter, this is a issue that many Christians struggle with.
Some take the approach of receiving them. They see no problem in dressing up like ghouls and goblins, putting up Christmas trees or hunting Easter eggs, although all of those traditions are pagan (non-biblical) in nature. It’s harmless, no animal sacrifices are being made to idols, and for them it doesn’t distract them from their worship of Jesus.
Some Christians struggle with their conscience over the celebration of the pagan elements of these holidays and therefore take the approach of rejecting them. They can’t in good faith participate in activities that are pagan in origin as it violates their worship of God above all.
The fun part comes in when you get these two groups of Christians together. The rejecting group starts to judge, and the receiving group tells the rejecting group to stop being so judgmental. So where’s the answer? As with all truth, we can turn to Scripture for guidance. In the first century there were a number of issues that plagued Greeks and Romans turning to Jesus, and they struggled with how many of their pagan traditions to give up and how many were harmless. From eating food sacrificed to idols to the celebration of special days, these early Christians were all over the board. Some trumpeted the freedom and grace in Jesus to continue participating in pagan traditions while others stressed the holiness of God and called for a separation from all worldly things. Here was Paul’s teaching on the matter:
1 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall.
13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.
19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Romans 14:1-4, 13, 19
Basically, Paul saw both sides of the debate and refused to land in either camp. He encouraged believers to do everything they could to keep others from stumbling but prohibited judgment being cast from one Christian to another. God is our judge, and we are accountable to Him.
So, should a Christian celebrate Halloween? That’s between you and God. Do everything you can to keep from causing someone else to stumble, and don’t judge someone who lands differently on this issue than you.
Every kid asks questions. In fact, every child will ask questions to the point where all we want as parents and adults is a few minutes of peace and quiet:
“Can we go there?”
“Can I have that?”
“Why do I have to go to bed?”
“Why do I have to go to school?”
In the midst of the overwhelming amount of questions your kids will ask, here are four critical questions that every kid needs answered, and needs answered well:
What are the boundaries? Every child needs both love and limits, and how we can love the kids in our lives best is when we strike a healthy, biblical balance between the two.
Do you love me? This question is not answered with words but with actions. We best reach our children’s hearts through grace, attention, and unconditional love.
Will you be there for me? Once again, actions speak louder than words on this one. Your kids need presence, not presents. You need to present for your kids through consistency, intentionally instructing and guiding them and by staying engaged.
How can I win the big battles? Every kid will face big battles: responsibility, purity, character, faith. Parents and mentors must commit to stand alongside our kids, encouraging them to fight the fight.
QUESTION: What are other key questions that every kid needs answered?
*if you would like to hear sermons on these questions, please click here.
If you struggle with mental illness, you are not alone. You’re not crazy. (Well, we’re all a little crazy, but you’re not ‘crazy’ crazy). Most important, there’s hope. Here are five words I want you to hear:
You belong. Don’t ever say “I don’t fit in.” You belong. Romans 12:4-5 says, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.“
You’re needed. Don’t buy into the lie that your mental illness has rendered you useless. There are others walking through similar situations that need you to help them as you’re being helped. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.“
You have a purpose. You are not an accident. Don’t ever think you don’t matter. You were created on purpose for a purpose. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
You are loved. God loves you more than you could ever possibly imagine. Don’t ever hate yourself. 1 John 4:10 says, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
You have a choice. When it feels like your brain is broken sometimes, when it feels like you’re under attack, when it feels like every day can be a struggle, you have a choice. Keep fighting, and know that you don’t have to fight alone. 2 Corinthians 4:8 says, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair.“