Generosity is preached a lot in Christianity. We covet it and strive for it. We generally try our best to give as much as we can, but how much are we holding back? How much are we preserving for our security and safety?
We talk about someone willing to give you the shirt off their back, but we rarely stop to think about the significance of this act. The idea is not to give a surplus, but everything we have available to give. It’s the act of giving, even if it means there won’t be enough for ourselves. Let’s talk about selfless giving, and not holding anything back as we give everyone around us every single thing we possess.
In the parable of the widow’s mite, the widow gives two mites to the church. The Gospel of Mark says that two mites are worth a quadrans, the roman penny. This leaves the poor widow literally penniless. She held nothing back for herself, and it was this deep level of generosity that so moved Jesus.
Mark 12:41-44 41 And he sat down over against the treasury and beheld how the multitude cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 42 And there came a poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing. 43 And he called unto him his disciples, and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, This poor widow cast in more than all they that are casting into the treasury: 44 for they all did cast in of their superfluity; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
Luke 21:1-4 1 And he looked up, and saw the rich men that were casting their gifts into the treasury. 2 And he saw a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. 3 And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, This poor widow cast in more than they all: 4 for all these did of their superfluity cast in unto the gifts; but she of her want did cast in all the living that she had.
As a model for the spirit
We must not judge ourselves by what others do or give. If we give all that we have to give to the lord, he will provide for us. The sentiment in your heard is worth more than anything the world can produce. Going through life with genuine generosity in your heart is the righteous path.
What we give to others can’t be measured in numbers. Even if all we have to offer is out time, giving all we have is the righteous thing to do. Living by this creed will lift you higher than riches ever could. Even during our fleeting time on Earth, giving warms the heart more than receiving ever will.
We can blame the oxytocin or the dopamine that’s released into our bloodstreams. We are social animals after all, and what makes people happy isn’t how much we have, but how much we connect with other people. If we can manage to give more than we get, then that mindset will spread to those around us. It is other people that should be in our prayers, not ourselves.
These benefits will extend far beyond this life, as well. It is these traits in his children that the lord cherishes most. Generosity and selfless acts are the quickest route to God’s good graces. Your actions will be rewarded.
This belief is supported not just by the bible but by a diverse array of ideologies and beliefs. It isn’t only Christians that are taught to be generous. Buddhists and Hindus also believe that to give is better than to receive.
Science is even starting to back up these beliefs. Research has shown that volunteering may improve your mental health. Volunteers were less likely to be depressed and suffered less severely. They were more satisfied with their lives and had a better sense of well being than people who don’t volunteer.
As a financial guide
The most valuable donations we have to give aren't the ones provided by the wealthy, but those who already have so little. Donating to the church might seem like a luxury that you can’t afford. It may seem like you will be better off by saving that money for your next vacation or a new car. However, the key to being happy is in giving.
It’s not about how much you spend. It’s about who you spend it on. The research has shown that spending money can make you happier. If you spend money on others, that is. Giving to others or charity makes people happier. A random survey of US citizens revealed that spending money on other people correlated with greater happiness, but spending it selfishly had no effect on long term happiness.
Those results were verified in the lab. At the University of British Columbia students were given envelopes with money in them. Some were told that they had to go and spend the money on themselves by 5 pm that day, while others were given the same time-frame to spend it on someone else. The students tasked with spending the money on other people were happier. The amount of money was changed from 5 to 20 dollars, but the outcome was the same. This was in contrast to what students believed would make them happier.
The takeaway here is that our instincts will push us to be selfish. We believe that putting all our money and efforts into ourselves is what will make us the happiest, but it won’t. It’s the people giving as much as they can to others that are the happiest in this life and the next.
There are many lessons that the bible teaches us if we trust in its wisdom. This is but a small offering. But it is not the small offerings that are worth the least. The more we can take the time to learn from the small things, the better off we all will be.