In my book Giving Is the Good Life, I tell the story of ten-year-old Riley and how she experienced the happiness of giving. A few years ago, while shopping online for a bike as a present for her dad, Riley and her mom followed a video link about an organization that provides specially engineered bicycles for individuals with disabilities. Seeing the happy faces of people riding the bikes, Riley told her mom, “I’m going to buy a bike for one of those kids.”
Riley’s mom loved her daughter’s heart, but the cost of just one special bike was a few thousand dollars. Two days later, Riley showed her mom a letter she’d written explaining how the bikes could help those in need and requesting donations.
After Riley sent the letter to seventy-five relatives and friends, money started pouring in. Word spread, and as Christmas neared, more donations came. On Christmas, Riley donned a Santa hat and delivered bicycles to three girls: thirteen-year-old Ava, who has spina bifida; fifteen-year-old Jenny, who has cerebral palsy; and four-year-old Rose, who has a rare genetic disorder.
“This is the best Christmas I ever had,” Riley declared.
She ultimately raised enough to pay for seven bikes, each given to a grateful recipient.
Riley says that when she rides her bicycle with one of the girls she gave a bike to, “I like to go fast, get sweaty, and feel the breeze. . . . So does Ava. She pumps with her arms, not her feet, but she really flies.”
We instinctively imagine that spending on ourselves will make us happiest. But as Riley discovered, our greatest joy comes when we give to others. It really is true what Jesus said: “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving” (Acts 20:35, GNT). You might have heard that verse translated “It is more blessed to give than receive,” but the well-documented fact is that the Greek word makarios here, translated “blessed,” really means “happy” or “happy-making.”
Notice what Jesus did not say: “Naturally, we’re happier when we receive than when we give, but giving is a duty, so grit your teeth, make the sacrifice, and force yourself to give.”
Money won’t make us happy, but giving away money can make us profoundly happy! When we give out of love for Christ and others, we experience dramatic and lasting returns for the investments we’ve made—far more than if we’d kept or spent it. Therefore, it’s not only receivers who come out ahead—it’s givers, too.
That brings me to Giving Tuesday, which is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. It was designed to be a response to the consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday and to provide us with the opportunity to consider giving as we go into the holiday season. I encourage you to consider giving generously and joyfully to whatever organizations God has laid on your heart!
Whether or not you participate in “Giving Tuesday,” may this Christmas season find you focused on the person and work of Christ, the greatest gift!