The Greater Happiness of Giving
IN YOUTH we are apt to take all things for what they appear to be. But as we mature, as we become older and wiser, we appreciate the truth of the saying that “all is not gold that glitters.” However, without God’s Word to guide us, we are bound to hang on to certain misconceptions because of what things appear to be.
One of these has to do with our quest for happiness. Because our receiving gifts from others gives us keen pleasure we are prone to overlook the fact that there are other sources of happiness aside from receiving things, such as that of accomplishment, of having done a difficult task well. It is unfortunate that this fact is overlooked, for, if we attach too much importance to receiving, we make our happiness dependent upon others’ giving to us.
But our wise and loving Creator did not intend for us to be dependent upon the gifts of others for our happiness. How so? In that a greater happiness comes to us from our own giving, even as God’s Son, Jesus Christ, taught when he said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
Why should there be greater happiness in giving than in receiving? Because the greatest of all qualities is love, and our expressing it has the power to make us happy. This is true because we were created in the image of the One of whom it is said: “God is love.” Since giving results in happiness, how happy must the Creator, Jehovah God, be, in view of his being the ‘Giver of every good gift and every perfect present’! Rightly he is called “the happy God.” To the extent that we seek to imitate him in this respect we can know the greater happiness of which Jesus spoke. Two who did their best to imitate their Maker in this respect were Jesus Christ himself and the apostle Paul. They devoted their lives to giving, literally impoverishing themselves so as to enrich others.—1 John 4:8; Jas. 1:17; 1 Tim. 1:11; 2 Cor. 6:10; 8:9.
It might well be asked, Since giving makes for the greater happiness, why is there not more liberality? Because of the sin of our first parents. Their willful disobedience resulted in their stamping all their offspring with an inclination toward selfishness, and therefore we are prone to overlook the importance of love, of giving to others.—Gen. 8:21.
Then too, we all have a measure of cautious fear because of the instinct of self-preservation. This instinct, proper in itself, unless controlled, acts against our being generous. When we refuse to attach unwarranted importance to it, it indicates a triumph over selfish fear, over undue apprehensiveness about the future. Giving in spite of being of modest means implies a trust in God that we can be generous today and yet will not be in want tomorrow. Then we are like the widow to whom Jesus called attention, who gave all she had to the temple treasury. Her giving implied trust in her God Jehovah that she would not starve on the morrow! Such trust in God, such freedom from undue apprehensiveness, likewise contributes to one’s happiness.—Luke 21:1-4.
This principle of there being greater happiness in giving than there is in receiving is certainly not limited to the giving of money. Otherwise the materially rich would have the greatest possibility for happiness, but that is not so. Giving applies to all our assets of which others may have a need. One of these is time. When others pay us a visit or take time to assist us in one way or another, it makes us happy, does it not? Well, then, to know still greater happiness we must give others of our time. Jesus commended the “sheep” on his right hand for their having given to him not only food and drink, clothing and shelter, but also of their time, in that they looked after him when he was sick and came to him when he was in prison. Yes, “to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation” takes time.—Matt. 25:34-36; Jas. 1:27.
In fact, time and again our being generous with our time in visiting a deserving or needy or sick friend brings with it unexpected dividends in happiness. An example of this is furnished by an elderly lady living in the eastern part of the United States who is bedridden, blind and crippled with arthritis. Those who go out of their way to visit her come away feeling greatly benefited because of her keen understanding and appreciation and her cheerful disposition.
Then again, there is such a thing as giving knowledge that we possess to others who may have need of it. Why, do we not feel better for having been able to give directions to a motorist who stopped to ask us how to get to his destination? That is why those who have a knowledge and understanding of God’s purposes receive such happiness when they find someone who appreciates his need of knowledge to reach his destination of everlasting life!—John 17:3.
Not to be overlooked is the happiness that comes from giving of ourselves, our personality. This can take the form of simply being ready to smile; a smile can do so much good to one who may be shy, backward, downcast or temporarily depressed. An encouraging word, a friendly greeting, are other little ways in which we can give of ourselves and know the greater happiness that comes from giving.
Has someone offended you, trespassed against you? Here also you can know the greater happiness by giving, by forgiving his debt to you. And keep forgiving, seventy-seven times if need be! To refuse to forgive—well, there is nothing like harboring a grudge or cherishing resentment to rob us of our happiness. Well has it been said that “the one covering over transgression is seeking love.” And remember, there is a special reason why forgiving brings happiness, because then we can with clear conscience beg God to forgive us!—Prov. 17:9; Matt. 6:14; 18:22.
We cannot escape it. God’s principles are sound. Receiving brings with it happiness, but for the greater happiness be outgoing, look for ways to give of yourself and what you may have to those in need.