“THE bus can leave, but the Chinese guy stays!” That was what Alexandra overheard while sitting on a bus, waiting to cross the border between two South American countries. She got off to see what was happening and found a young Chinese man struggling with broken Spanish as he was trying to explain his predicament to a border guard. Since Alexandra attended a Chinese-language congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, she volunteered to help as interpreter.
The man said that he was a legal resident but had been robbed of his documents and money. At first the officer did not accept this story and even suspected that Alexandra was involved in human trafficking. Finally, he accepted the man’s explanation, but the hapless traveler had to pay a fine for not having the right document. Since he had no money, Alexandra offered to lend him $20. The man could not thank her enough and said he would repay more than $20. Alexandra explained that she was not looking for a reward; she was happy to help because she felt it was the right thing to do. She gave the man some Bible literature and urged him to study the Bible with the Witnesses.
It is heartwarming to hear of generosity toward strangers, and doubtless, similar acts are performed by people of all religions and by people who have no religion. Would you have been willing to give of yourself in such an altruistic way? That question is of interest because Jesus said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) It is also of scientific interest because researchers have found that giving is good for you. Let us see in what ways this is so.
THE “CHEERFUL GIVER”
Experience shows that giving and happiness often go hand in hand. The apostle Paul wrote that “God loves a cheerful giver.” He was speaking of Christians who made generous donations to help relieve the hardship of fellow believers. (2 Corinthians 8:4; 9:7) Paul was not saying that they gave because they were happy. The reverse was true—they were happy because they were able to give.
Indeed, according to one study, giving “activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a ‘warm glow’ effect.” Another study found that “giving money to someone else lifted participants’ happiness more than spending it on themselves.”
Have you ever felt that because of your circumstances there is not much you can do? The truth is that everyone can experience the joy of being “a cheerful giver.” When given with the right motive, the sum does not have to be large. One of Jehovah’s Witnesses sent this message to the publisher of this magazine with a contribution from her: “All these years I have been unable to give but small amounts of money at the Kingdom Hall.” Yet, she continued: “Jehovah God has given me back much more than I have given. . . . Thank you for making it possible for me to make this gift—it gives me comfort.”
Giving, of course, is not limited to money. There are many other ways to give.
GIVING IS GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH
The Bible states: “A kind man benefits himself, but the cruel person brings trouble on himself.” (Proverbs 11:17) Kind people are generous, willing to give of themselves—their time, energy, care, and so forth. This approach to life benefits them in various ways, not the least of which is that such generosity is good for their health.
Studies indicate that those who volunteer to help others have been found to suffer from fewer aches and pains and less depression. Overall, they enjoy better health. Generous giving even improves the health of some who suffer from chronic health problems, such as multiple sclerosis or HIV. It has also been shown that recovering alcoholics who help others become significantly less depressed and can improve their odds of avoiding a relapse.
As to why this is so, it is suggested that “feelings of compassion, benevolence and kindness leave less room for negative emotions.” Giving may also lower stress and blood pressure. And people who lost their spouse in death recovered from symptoms of depression sooner if they offered support to others.
There is no doubt about it. Giving does you good.
GIVING IS CONTAGIOUS
Jesus urged his followers: “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) When you give, people are more likely to respond to your generosity with gratitude and become generous themselves. Giving thus fosters cooperation and friendship.
Researchers who study human relations have noted that “people who consistently display altruism encourage others to follow suit.” In fact, “simply reading about extraordinary acts of kindness makes people more generous.” Hence, according to one study, “each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she does not know and has not met.” In other words, a single act of generosity can start a ripple effect that goes from person to person throughout a community. Would you not like to live in a place like that? Yes, great benefits would come if more people practiced giving.
One experience that illustrates this positive effect comes from Florida, U.S.A. A group of Jehovah’s Witnesses volunteered to do relief work after a destructive hurricane. As they were waiting for repair supplies at the house they were to work on, they noticed that a fence belonging to one of the neighbors was damaged, and they offered to fix it. “I am forever grateful,” wrote the neighbor some time later in a letter to the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “I found these people to be among the nicest I have ever met.” Gratitude moved him to send a generous contribution to be used in what he called the Witnesses’ extraordinary work.
IMITATE THE GREATEST EXAMPLE OF GIVING
A remarkable finding from scientific research is that “there appears to be a fundamental human drive toward helping others.” Children, says the study, “behave altruistically even before they’ve learned to talk.” Why? The Bible provides the answer when it says that humans were created “in God’s image,” that is, they possess the same basic godly qualities.—Genesis 1:27.
Among the marvelous qualities of our Creator, Jehovah God, is generosity. He has given us life and everything we need to make us happy. (Acts 14:17; 17:26-28) We can become acquainted with our heavenly Father and his loving purposes for us by studying his Word, the Bible. That book also discloses that God has made provision for our future happiness.* (1 John 4:9, 10) Since Jehovah God is the source of generosity and you are made in his image, it should be no surprise that giving—in imitation of God—is good for you and wins you his favor.—Hebrews 13:16.
Do you remember Alexandra, mentioned at the beginning of this article? How did her story turn out? Although a fellow traveler on the bus with her said she had thrown her money away, the man she helped contacted friends in a city where the bus subsequently stopped, and the $20 debt was promptly settled. Moreover, the man acted on Alexandra’s suggestion and began studying the Bible. She was delighted to meet him again three months later at a Chinese-language convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Peru. To express his thanks for all that Alexandra had done for him, the man invited her and those who had traveled to the convention with her to his restaurant.
Giving and helping others bring great joy. And even more so if in the process you help people to become better acquainted with the Source of all good gifts—Jehovah God! (James 1:17) Are you enjoying the benefits of such giving?
For more details, see the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? published by Jehovah’s Witnesses and available online at www.jw.org. Look under PUBLICATIONS > BOOKS & BROCHURES.