The Happiness That Comes from Giving
“THERE was a time I didn’t care about anybody but myself and my family,” said a woman in her late fifties. “I thought that was the way to be.”
Sitting at a table in her New York City apartment, the listener found this hard to believe. He had come to know this woman as a generous person who really cared about other people. As he looked at her beaming face and broad smile, he could not imagine that she had ever been a selfish person. Knowing about her present happiness, he remarked: “You probably weren’t happy in the past.” “I was miserable,” she quickly replied. “I didn’t know any better.” What made her change?
This woman, like many other people, was aided to change her viewpoint through a study of the Bible. She learned that the key to happiness is unselfish giving. Today, she is convinced about the truthfulness of Jesus’ words: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
This is a tested precept. Jesus Christ himself lived by it and, therefore, could state it without any reservations. As the foremost of God’s spirit sons in the heavens, he had riches far greater than any other creature has ever been able to enjoy. He had everything. On earth, however, he lived as a poor man. Yet it was in this capacity that he opened up to mankind great spiritual riches and the opportunity of gaining everlasting life. “Though he was rich,” wrote the apostle Paul to the Corinthians, “he became poor for your sakes, that you might become rich through his poverty.”—2 Cor. 8:9.
The Son of God found real pleasure in what he did. Regarding his attitude, the following was foretold: “To do your will, O my God, I have delighted, and your law is within my inward parts.”—Ps. 40:8; Heb. 10:7-9.
Persons who come to know Jesus Christ, imitating his example, experience the same delight or happiness in giving of themselves to further the interests of their fellowmen. Why is this the case?
For one thing, using one’s abilities, assets and time to help others has a good effect upon the individual’s own outlook. He is so busy doing things for people that he does not brood about others’ inconsiderate acts. As he sees individuals made happy by his unselfish giving, his own happiness increases. Instead of prompting complaints, any unkindness and selfishness shown by others actually makes him feel sorry for them. He knows that they are missing out on the deep joy that comes from making others happy.
Often, a person’s expressions of generosity also have a wholesome effect on the attitude of the recipients, making them aware of the happiness that comes from giving. Their hearts, too, may be stirred to be generous. The words of Jesus Christ highlight this fact: “Practice giving, and people will give to you. They will pour into your laps a fine measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing. For with the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you in return.”—Luke 6:38.
The generous person thus himself becomes the object of others’ generosity. His record of generosity will put him in good stead in his time of need. And people will be more inclined to give him a full measure. The contents being ‘pressed down and shaken,’ his container, as it were, will be filled with good things to overflowing.
Yes, the unselfish person wins for himself a place in the affection of appreciative fellowmen. This is because he does not limit himself to doing what justice requires. He wants to help others, unselfishly laboring in their behalf. For such a good man, says the apostle Paul, “someone even dares to die.”—Rom. 5:7.
Most importantly, the person who practices giving rejoices in knowing that Jehovah God is pleased with his course. Even if people do not always appreciate what he does, the Most High does not overlook the matter. “God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7) He will not leave the individual unrewarded. Jesus Christ said: “When making gifts of mercy, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, that your gifts of mercy may be in secret; then your Father who is looking on in secret will repay you.”—Matt. 6:3, 4.
When right motivation is lacking, however, giving in itself does not bring happiness. That is why the giving at Christmas time so often fails to promote joy. While there are exceptions, many people merely exchange gifts out of a sense of duty, feeling pressured to do so. They may have no heartfelt desire to give with the view of making someone else happy.
Does it not seem strange that a holiday, thought to be in honor of Jesus, so frequently falls short of the spirit of Christian giving? But should this really come as a surprise? Actually, the customs centering around the celebration of Christmas stem from sources that have no relationship to the Son of God. Reports the Press Register of Mobile, Alabama:
“The festivities accompanying Christmas probably originated with the Roman festival of Saturnalia, December 17 to 19, honoring Saturn, god of the seed-corn. It was the occasion for merriment, feasting and the exchange of presents. Temples were decked with greenery and flowers. No public business could be transacted, the law courts were closed, schools had a holiday, no criminal could be punished and no war declared.”
It is not the kind of giving that was associated with the pagan Saturnalia, but unselfish giving, that brings a rich reward. This is one reason that has prompted many honest-hearted persons to stop exchanging gifts after the pattern of the ancient Romans. They are finding great joy in spontaneous expressions of generosity at times other than the Christmas season. Are you experiencing the happiness that comes from such giving?
If not, test out the truthfulness of Jesus’ words about this. Strive to cultivate an unselfish, continuing interest in the welfare of others and see for yourself that the result can indeed be a richer and happier life even now.