People expect you to be cynical in the 21st century.
The self-help genre dominates the bookselling marketplace.
People feel bad more and more often, and they are scrambling to feel a sense of meaning, connection, and happiness.
There is a strategy we can use to combat feelings of meaninglessness, loneliness, and depression most people often overlook.
This strategy has nothing to do with centering your third-eye.
This strategy doesn’t require you to implement a get-rich-quick scheme
This strategy to achieve a sense of purposefulness, connectedness, and joy is ancient and profound:
Most people don’t want to give more because they already feel taken advantage of.
They feel a sense of victimization by the world.
They don’t want to be generous, giving, and charitable, because it requires a kind of optimism that is risky—it requires a hope that says: “I believe there is something worth saving in this world and I’m going to be part of God’s plan to meet the needs of others instead of hoarding as much as I can for myself.”
But this strategy isn’t just an ancient psychological tactic to achieve the peace that comes with happiness.
This strategy is also verified by multiple scientific disciplines.
These findings, both time-tested and empirically tested, should prompt us to rethink how we approach giving.
When we are able to understand the profundity of Jesus’s words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), we will begin to benefit from the act of giving and see how giving doesn’t make us victims—it makes us beneficiaries.
Let’s jump right into the five scientific reasons why giving is rewarding.
1. Giving makes you happy
A 2017 study published in the journal Nature Communications found that generous behavior is neurologically correlated with happiness.
How does this work?
Let me get a little nerdy.
Compared with a control group, those who made generous decisions showed a higher ability to make themselves feel genuinely happy. Generosity was a way to practice using the part of their brain that induced happiness.
In other words, the more you give, the bigger your “happiness muscle” gets, and the easier it is to make yourself feel happy.
2. Giving makes your community safe
Giving has real social value.
Most people know what it’s like to be in a desperate place.
Many people who know what it’s like to feel desperate also know what it’s like to feel immense gratitude for receiving a gift.
It’s important to remember this.
Giving a gift to someone in need doesn’t just make you a generous person.
It also makes the recipient a grateful person.
When you give, you don’t just give money.
You give breathing room.
You give someone in need the ability to exhale, relax, and reorient to find a way to pick themselves up.
One study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people who have received generosity are more likely to be generous in return.
3. Giving creates trust
Giving creates a relational connection between the giver and the receiver.
But it does more than this—giving situates the giver within the larger purpose of the church community.
Giving is one of the ways that a Christian can become a crucial element of the church’s mission on earth.
A recent study produced by Stanford University showed that social engagement predicts life longevity.
The more you belong to a community, the higher your chances of living a longer life.
This doesn’t mean that you have to be rich to belong.
It means that of the resources you have, if you choose to horde them all for yourself, you are robbing yourself of an important benefit of giving that is key to a long and happy life.
4. Giving is a tax write-off
One obvious benefit of generosity is the ability to reduce your taxable income.
If you are able to process your donation through a registered 501(c)(3), you can deduct that amount from your final yearly income and receive a tax refund for the amount you were taxed.
Here’s an overly simplistic example:
If you pay 25% tax on your income, and you give $100 to a charity, you can submit the donation receipt to the IRS during tax season to receive $25 back on your income.
You can benefit in two ways from these kinds of donations.
First, your deducted charitable donation could result in bumping you to a lower income bracket, which results in your donated funds simply going to a non-profit of your choice rather than the federal government.
Second, the tax write-off of donations enables you to give more elsewhere. If you simply had to give money to churches without deducting them, your donating power would be lower. But since you can deduct them, their deductibility essentially increases your gross giving power by whatever percentage is your tax rate.
5. Giving helps create margin in your budget
Practicing a regular discipline of financial giving enables you to create a financial margin that isn’t entirely focused on consumption.
This yields financial practices which are both wise and beneficial to those in your community.
If you know how to create financial margin in your budget, this means that you know how to be disciplined enough to save money, steward your resources, and help your neighbors in need which, as we have seen, yields various other social and psychological benefits.
Over to you
The Bible not only commands Christians to be generous (Prov. 11:24-25)
The Bible commands Christians to tithe (2 Cor. 9:6-8).
Giving is more rewarding than receiving.
Giving charity feels good.
It benefits us to live in God’s the world the way God has told us to live.
There are neurological, social, relational, economic, and financial benefits proven by both ancient tradition and modern science about which the Bible speaks very plainly.
Will we decide to horde what we have for our immediate gratification, or give freely, not of coercion, because of the blessings we know await those who can see the potential for God’s kingdom in our meaningful acts of giving?
May our eyes be opened to the abundant blessings that come from giving.
Author: Paul Maxwell, Ph.D., is the Content Strategist at Tithe.ly. He lives in Fishers, IN with his beautiful wife and rowdy wheaten terrier.