There is a remarkable amount of research on how giving affects others. As it turns out, giving not only benefits those who receive, it also benefits those who give as well as the entire community! So, when you come back from volunteering and feel that you received more than you gave, you are actually being scientifically accurate.
Pastors can use this research alongside scripture to show how giving benefits the whole community and to explain the positive personal benefits many givers report after serving and giving to others. It can also be used to challenge the self-centeredness of Western culture with the self-giving attitude of Jesus.
“New studies attest to the benefits of giving—not just for the recipients but for the givers’ health and happiness, and for the strength of entire communities.”
-Jason Marsh and Jill Suttie
What to Consider
- What positive benefits have you experienced or witnessed from giving (of your resources, time, etc.)? What was the act of giving that precipitated it?
- Are there times when it might not be beneficial for a person to give? In those situations, what negative consequences might arise for the person who gives? For the person who receives? For the community?
- What is the role of motivation in the act of giving? Is giving selfless and altruistic if done for the personal benefit of the giver (personal happiness, establishing social connections, tax write-off, etc.)? If the receiver and community benefit, does the motivation of the giver matter?
How to Go Deeper
- Read Deuteronomy 15 and consider the command to Israel to take care of the needy and marginalized in their midst. Use this research on giving to show how these acts benefited Israel as a whole. Explore ideas about analogous acts of giving that congregants can do in their own communities. Be prepared to discuss if you church has lived up to this command.
- Acts 2:42-47 is a snapshot of how the early church took care of its community. Share this research with the congregation to demonstrate how selflessness and acts of giving develop cohesiveness amongst a community and encourage others in the community to give selflessly. Allow time for self reflection as congregants contemplate the ways they are taking care (or failing to take care) of their own community.
- Matthew 6:1-4 suggests that those who give publicly already have received their reward, while those who give in secret will be rewarded by God. Reflect upon this research and the personal and communal benefits of giving to others. Invite congregants to think about stories about giving in secret or in public and the different ways it affected the giver, receiver, and the community.