One of the more striking statements that I have read is “I’ve never met an unhappy generous person.” How true that is! If people would just focus on that idea alone, they would realize that generosity is a very good trait to have.
There are many other good reasons for generosity aside from happiness. And a person cannot normally be transformed from a miser to a generous person in one, two, three, or even four easy steps. It is a growth process that requires time and maturation.
We are called by God in Ephesians 5:1 to “be imitators of God, as beloved children.” God has directly called for us to be generous not only in giving to the church but in all aspects of our lives. The apostle Paul urges us to “excel in the grace of giving.” 2 Corinthians 8:7. We are to “be generous on every occasion”. 2 Corinthians 9:11. Generous people are promised blessings. Proverbs 22:9, Proverbs 11:25, Deuteronomy 15:19, Psalm 112:5, Luke 11:41, 2 Corinthians 9:6 and 1 Timothy 6:17-18. We are to measure our goals according to His love, His compassion and His sacrifice.
If you ever wonder how generous God wants you to be, just look to the life of Jesus Christ for the example we are to follow. The cross is the true standard of God’s generosity.
Focusing on some of the benefits of being generous may provide some additional incentive and promote the idea of generosity. The benefits of generosity are numerous:
It supports your health
In recent years the BMC Public Health Journal published a study on the effect of volunteering on general health and happiness. The results were hardly surprising and fully support the idea of being generous with your time and skills. Regardless of the type of volunteer work performed, the results showed a lower mortality rate among volunteers. The study does not suggest how or why that result occurs, but the average improved life expectancy is striking.
Doing volunteer work appears to result in both a better self-image and better results in life. In the book The Paradox of Generosity, authors Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson, say that volunteering improves well-being and life satisfaction. Then they add that doing volunteer work is also linked with decreased depression and a lower risk of dying early. The authors wrote that “since people reporting stronger social relationships have a reduced risk of mortality, the social aspects of volunteering may contribute to the observed survival differences.” They have no “proof” of the cause of better health, not any more than the authors of the BMC Public Health Journal article did, but there is no coincidence that these two studies reach similar conclusions independently.
The real result they reached is that the Bible is right:
25 A generous person will prosper;
whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
One of the ways this appears to happen is the next benefit of generosity; generosity joins us in community.
It joins us in community
Community matters. Yes, there are stresses that arise from the social interactions of an imperfect community (and there are no perfect communities on this earth). However, the blessings of community far outweigh the few negatives. Furthermore, being in community is also an act of obedience. Jesus told us “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40. See also Hebrews 10:23-25.
Modern science is coming around to support the Biblical position on community. The book The Paradox of Generosity makes this point as well.
“If the top 10 percent of most generous Americans were to stop giving money, the entire sector of society and economy based on voluntary financial giving would simply collapse.”
While that may be partly an overstatement, the losses in the charitable sector of our society would be dramatic with resulting negative impacts throughout society.
In addition to that, there are obvious benefits to teamwork in virtually every area of American work, play and social activity. Cooperation and coordination of action benefits the givers and also the recipients of generosity, thereby benefiting all of our society.
Which gives us the next benefit of generosity almost seamlessly.
It makes work and play better
This goes hand-in-hand with the idea that there are benefits to community and our society as a whole. Anyone ever working in any workplace anywhere knows the value of support from co-workers, supervisors and even from subordinates. DeGarmo is a global employment recruiting, assessment and consulting firm. Their article How Does Coworker Support Influence Organizational Outcomes?, argues that co-workers’ support (or lack thereof) can influence:
- Role perceptions
- Work attitudes
- Individual effectiveness
That article is a short summary of a longer research paper reaching the same conclusions.
Just as being helped makes someone a better employee, doing the helping also makes the helper employee happier and more productive. Happy workers stay on the job longer because they feel more committed to and engaged with the workplace. Many of the functions of business improve through the creative interaction of people cooperating in pursuit of a common workplace goal. People can learn from each other, share collaboratively about problems and reach cooperative agreements about the best ways to solve problems.
There is nothing surprising in those conclusions. No one who has had to fight through interference by co-workers or fight against an obstructive supervisor would disagree. Employees who are generous and cooperative are the best.
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
The truth is that helping others makes everyone happier. Helping people at work creates a healthy work environment and establishes a mental reward system.
Certainly, in sports the same is true just as in the workplace. It is hard to imagine a successful sports team without teamwork. Everything written about people working together holds true about people playing in team sports.
It lowers stress and energizes you
Generous people have lower levels of the hormone cortisol, associated with stress according to social psychologist Liz Dunn. She did a creative experiment and gave people ten dollars. They were told they could keep the ten dollars or give away as much of it as they wanted. Consistent with all past research, she found that the more money people gave away, the happier they were. And the more money people kept for themselves the more shame they felt. The people who felt shame had higher cortisol levels. Elevated cortisol levels for a lengthy period of time interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease and more according to Psychology Today.
Additionally, generosity energizes the giver. 2 Corinthians 9:6 tells us that “whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” That verse actually accurately describes the way life works. St. Francis of Assisi said, “It is in giving that we receive.”
Organizational psychologist Adam Grant speaks of studying thousands of people and examining givers, takers and matchers. Matchers are the persons with a balance of giver and taker. He says that the most successful organizations with higher profits, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and all other measurable metrics, are those with givers who coach and support others. He describes this and a lot more about givers in a TED Talk that can be found here. Grant makes it clear that he defines success as being about contribution, not about competition. One key point from his TED Talk is wonderful, “You don’t have to be Mother Teresa or Gandhi, to be a giver, you just have to find small ways to add large value.”
That would be energizing.
It makes us more like Christ
Generosity draws us toward the character of God. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.” John 3:16. You can never be more like God when you are generous with other people. The gift of Jesus to us was a very generous gift.
4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,
5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,
7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Literally, the gospel means “good news.” It really is the best news because due to the gospel, we are recipients of God’s overwhelming generosity. He gave us life through His death on the cross. The cross is God’s guarantee that He is willing and able to provide immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. Ephesians 3:20.
32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
There are unmistakable, scientifically verifiable benefits to generosity at home, at work, and at play. Generosity has enormous benefits to society, to those being helped and especially to the generous person. John Bunyan said, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
If you would like to learn more about this idea of generosity, give us a call. The Idlewild Foundation was formed in part to promote radical generosity. We have seen the transformational effect of generosity and believe that the best life is a life well-lived through giving to others. We would love to share even more with you.
About the Author
John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.