God commanded his people, “Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need” (Deuteronomy 15:10-11, NLT). This was a command, yet God said they should “share freely.” He cares about the state of our hearts as we give.
Paul made it clear that it’s possible to give sacrificially without being motivated by love: “If I give away all my possessions, and if I give over my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3, CSB). That means it’s not just generosity that’s the good life; it’s generosity that flows out of love.
Paul also said that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7, ESV). What keeps us from giving cheerfully? We instinctively imagine that spending on ourselves will make us happiest. But Jesus said our greatest joy comes when we give to others: “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.”
God is not up in Heaven frowning at us and saying, “Stop it! You should find joy only in Me.” This would be as foreign to our heavenly Father’s nature as it would be to mine as an earthly father if I gave my daughters Christmas gifts and then pouted because they enjoyed them too much. No, I am delighted when my children and grandchildren enjoy the presents I’ve given them! Their pleasure in my gifts draws us closer together.
While shopping online for a bike as a present for her dad, ten-year-old 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.
When our missions pastor returned from Sudan, he told our church about enslaved Christians in that region. Spontaneously, several families decided to forgo giving Christmas presents that year and instead give toward freeing slaves. The fourth-grade class at our school raised thousands of dollars for this purpose through work projects. One sixth-grade girl took the fifty dollars she’d saved up to play on a basketball team and gave it to help Sudanese believers.
One family had saved several hundred dollars to go to Disneyland. Their child asked if they could give the money to help the slaves instead. Before long, people had given sixty thousand dollars to redeem slaves. We never even took an offering, but the giving was contagious. People told each other their giving stories. And when they did, it thrilled and encouraged the body to give more. It was one of the church’s finest hours, and an essential component was people sharing how God had led them 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.See more resources on money and giving, as well as Randy's related books, including Managing God's Money and Giving Is the Good Life.
Photo by Matheus Bertelli
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.