Did you know that a recent Harvard study showed that simply contemplating generosity boosts your immune system? In addition, the study concluded that giving money to someone else lifted the giver’s happiness more than spending it on themselves (surprisingly, the study participants’ generally predicted that spending on themselves would make them happier). It turns out, giving actually makes us feel happy! When people give, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust. A wide range of research has linked different forms of generosity to better physical and mental health. Individuals who provided practical help or gave emotional support had a lower risk of dying over a five-year period than those who didn’t. Interestingly, receiving is not linked to reduced health risks.
Researchers suggest that one reason giving may improve physical health and longevity is that it helps decrease stress, which is in turn associated with a variety of health problems.
“A cheerful heart is good medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22)
As evidenced by the benefits to our physical and mental wellbeing resulting from giving, God, in His infinite wisdom, designed us to be generous. Furthermore, the benefits extend into an important realm: our spiritual health.
“Money has great value, because it can do great good. In the hands of God’s children it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, and clothing for the naked. It is a defense for the oppressed, and a means of help to the sick. But money is of no more value than sand, only as it is put to use in providing for the necessities of life, in blessing others, and advancing the cause of Christ.” (Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 351, 352)
We often focus on the dangers of money, greed, and financial idolatry. For good reasons, we are cautioned to store up treasures in Heaven and not on earth. But money itself is not bad. There’s nothing wrong with having money. Money is not evil. It is merely a tool. Money can be a powerful instrument for good when put to proper use.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…” (Galatians 5:22-23; NIV)
The problem actually lies in our own hearts and how we relate to money. It doesn’t matter whether we are rich or poor, but rather whether material wealth occupies a priority above our duty to God and His will. Fortunately for us, God built a spiritual safeguard through the gifts of giving and service to others. And He offers this gift freely to those who seek to reflect His character. By serving the Lord through sharing His blessings with others, we put our trust in Him to magnify the positive impact that money can produce when invested in God’s purposes. When we give, we open our hearts to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and it’s actually good for our health. When we keep our earthly blessings to ourselves, King Solomon put it best:
“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.”
(Ecclesiastes 2:10-11; NIV)
Whereas the Bible offers us eternal blessings when we give freely from what we have.
“Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:33-34; NIV)
“The poor man who has faith and confidence in God, who trusts in His love and care, and who abounds in good works, judiciously using the little he has in blessing others with his means, is rich toward God. He feels that his neighbor has claims upon him that he cannot disregard and yet obey the commandment of God: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2)
Ten days symbolizes a test period in the Bible. The benefits from practicing the gift of giving is something we can assess fairly easily, so I challenge you to give with a generous and trusting heart this holiday season—as well as ALL seasons and see how it improves your spiritual and physical wellbeing. You can start with just ten days and see what happens…
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38; NIV)
Please share your personal experiences with giving and the benefits or blessings you’ve received as a result in the comments section below. I look forward to hearing your stories!