As Paul quotes Jesus in Acts, “It’s more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35). If pressed, we generally believe it—or at least we think we do.
We struggle with believing that giving is better than getting, and why wouldn’t we? Acquiring and hoarding are part of our broken nature. We love the security of having stuff. We’re a disposable culture addicted to the emotional boost of buying something new.
And what about non-economic forms of giving? Do we really believe giving attention, encouragement, and compliments are better than being on the receiving end?
Here are 20 reasons giving is better than receiving:
1. Giving is how God demonstrates his love for us
John 3:16 is one of the most well-known verses of all time. It says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
In the very presence of Jesus, God demonstrates that he is love—and love gives. If we truly want to be like Jesus, we’ll give.
2. Giving makes you happy
There have been many studies about the happiness level of people who gave money to charities or volunteered their time. Across the board, these studies always seem to point at the happiness of people who give.
It was found in a 2002 survey by the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey that 43 percent of people who gave blood two or three times a year were very happy, as opposed to the 29 percent who didn’t.
3. Giving communicates something important about our worldview
Psalm 50:10 says, “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.” This beautifully reveals the sovereignty of God and his ultimate ownership of every resource.
Our hoarding communicates a belief that there’s only so much to go around and if we don’t get it, someone else will. Instead of faith that God is able to supply us with what we need.
4. Giving is the way God blesses others
When God was talking to Abram about creating a nation that would be his, the point was always about being a blessing to others. He tells Abram, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2).
God doesn’t often drop his providence out of the sky. He blesses us so that we will be able to bless others.
5. Giving helps us live longer
The journal Health Psychology published a study in 2012 that found that people who regularly volunteer live longer. But there was a catch—it had to be for unselfish reasons.
If you volunteered for any reason beyond the joy of giving, it didn’t have the same long-term health benefits.
6. Giving joyfully makes God happy
Paul spells it out for us: “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 8:1). That’s pretty self-explanatory. When we give as joyful expression, it delights our maker.
7. Giving increases our social connectedness
It makes sense that when we give to others, they feel closer to us. What we might not realize is that giving to others makes us feel closer to them, too.
In her book The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubormirsky writes, “Being kind and generous leads you to perceive others more positively and more charitably, and this fosters a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation in your social community.”
8. Giving is an act of obedience
While God doesn’t want us to give out of compulsion (2 Cor. 9:7), he does want us to give. In fact, Jesus encourages us to give to everyone who asks of us (Lk. 6:30). That’s a pretty sobering statement.
9. Giving is contagious
The “pay it forward” idea isn’t a myth. It’s a fact. When people experience a generous kindness, they’re more apt to treat others with the same sort of benevolence.
In a combined study between the University of California, San Diego, and Harvard, the first laboratory evidence was found that showed how cooperative behavior is infectious and how it spreads through social networks.
10. Giving helps give your life meaning
There is often a disconnect between who we think or say we are, and who we actually are. Now, many people would say that they’re not selfish, but they still make decisions based on what is ultimately best for them.
It isn’t until you actually become generous that you can say that giving is important to you. Once you do, you’ll find that it begins to define you more profoundly than you previously thought possible.
11. Giving battles depression
One contributing aspect to cycles of depression is the feeling of isolation. Studies have shown that volunteering and giving to others helps combat self-hatred.
12. Giving puts God in our debt
In the book of Matthew, Jesus tells us, “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Matt. 10:42). The fact that God is keeping tabs down to glasses of water given in his name should be pretty motivating.
The writer of Proverbs says it in even more emphatic language, “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed” (Prov. 19:17). God in your debt, ponder that a second.
13. Giving increases our confidence
One critical element to a poor self image is constant focus on ourselves and our state of being. Self-preoccupation breeds a false self-understanding. Giving helps to move our focus away from us, and on to others.
It’s great to have a strong sense of self-awareness, but that inner voice can be a constant force for criticism and negativity. Being generous not only changes where we’re placing the spotlight, it helps give our brain a positive argument for why we’re not so bad.
14. Giving builds trust
When you give gifts to others, you are trusting that they will use the gift responsibly. If you’re like me, you’ve heard a lot of people say, “I can’t give a gift to that person, they’ll just waste it on [fill in the blank].”
Building up a history of generosity gives you plenty of stories where people did act responsibly. Generous people are generally optimistic people.
15. Giving makes you listen differently
Generous people tend to listen to people’s stories with the question, “Is there a way I can help?” The more they give, the more they hear a need or request behind someone’s story.
16. Giving makes you look at your resources differently
The more people give, the more they begin to see all of their resources as potential opportunities.
When they begin pressing themselves to be more altruistic, they’ll generally think in terms of money. As they are captured by a spirit of benevolence, they begin to see things like time, attention, praise, and the benefit of the doubt as tools of generosity.
17. Giving generates contentment
The Scripture says that the eyes of man are never satisfied (Prov. 27:20). This need to amass more and more is completely real.
People who are bitten by the generosity bug begin to see their own belongings differently. Seeing and responding to the needs of others helps create a sense of peace in their own desire for acquisition.
18. Giving promotes a universal good
A study at the University of Pennsylvania used a twist on a common game theory construct to prove that cooperative behavior is not only encouraged in a large group, it pays off for everyone.
19. Giving helps create lasting relationships
A 2011 report from the National Marriage Project found that regular acts of generosity on behalf of spouses creates a harmony that serves the relationship in the long term. We’re talking about little acts of kindness like fetching a cup of coffee or offering a back rub
20. Giving makes you likable
Let’s be honest; when you’re a genuinely generous person, people find you trustworthy and kind—as long as it seems genuine and philanthropic. If it feels forced or manipulative, all bets are off.
It’s the right thing to do
Ultimately this list is all about how you can benefit from giving. On some level, that’s okay. When Jesus says, “It’s better to give than to receive,” he’s not making a statement about benefit.
We need to become generous people because it’s the right thing to do, not because we’ll benefit. But it’s sure is nice to know that when we do, we’re going to get quite a bit out of it!