The Scriptures tell us that Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
After completing another “Season of Giving” on Monday, I wonder how we all will feel about Jesus’ words. We sometimes bemoan the fact that some of our giving seems to be perfunctory and unfulfilling. (Think of the gifts you gave that to some extent at least seemed obligatory.) Perhaps all of us feel that we have to do some of that.
How true is it that “It is more blessed to give than to receive?”
I have just been reading the current newsletter from Massachusetts General Hospital. I think you may share my fascination with an article titled “Giving Provides Happiness Bonus for Giver.” Their Director of Psychotherapy Joel A. Pava, Ph.D, tells us that giving is its own reward. It boosts happiness, which begins even with the anticipation of giving. Giving “improves your psychological wellbeing and provides greater life satisfaction. You develop greater feelings of meaningfulness, higher self-esteem, less depression, more positive attitudes.”
All of this would be true, of course, not only of our giving of presents at Christmas, but also of our giving at other times during the year. Furthermore we can gain these benefits not only by giving material presents but also by other sincere acts of love and kindness such as helping someone with a pressing problem, visiting a lonely person, encouraging someone who is despondent, and expressing appreciation to someone who is doing good things for others. Perhaps these are some of the kinds of things Jesus had in mind when he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
It may help us to remember Jesus’ great parable about God in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25: Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and your gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine you did for me!
The Rev. Dr. G. Daniel McCall is minister-emeritus at Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church.