By Mark A. Taylor
As long as we’ve been in church we’ve heard, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” And even when our natural instincts resisted that idea, we decided to believe it’s true simply because Jesus said it (Acts 20:35).
Now comes objective data to support his proverb.
Arthur C. Brooks, writing in The Wall Street Journal December 8, cites research showing that “people who donate to charity are 40 percent more likely to say they are
‘very happy’ than nondonors.” According to Brooks, psychologists used “randomized controlled experiments—the same procedure used for testing pharmaceuticals,” to reach their conclusion. But instead of giving half those in their study a sugar pill and the other a real drug, psychologists instructed half those in their study to act charitably toward another.
“The results are clear,” he concludes. “Givers of charity earn substantial mental and physical health rewards, even more than do the recipients of charity.”
The members of Makokoba Church of Christ in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (see articles by Robert Reese and Mike Schrage) will most likely never participate in such a study. But they certainly demonstrate the joy of giving. Have you ever seen an offering celebration as jubilant as theirs?
Maybe it’s cultural differences that keep us from dancing during the offering. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because we American Christians have received so much more than we’ve ever given. Could it be that our experience prevents us from really understanding the truth Jesus spoke and research has proven?
The New Testament also tells us, with words equally familiar, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Can we muster this cheerfulness through an act of the will? Perhaps. But it will come naturally to those who concentrate on the recipient of their gifts.
The research Brooks cites seems to show that givers were happy when they saw the good results of their gifts. That’s a fact successful fund-raisers have learned; the best of them tell us real-life stories about those whose lives were changed because we gave.
When our ministries are touching lives and when church members see how this is true, the stage has been set for joyful giving. We’d like to print the stories of jubilant offering celebrations in congregations closer to home!