“There is . . . happiness in giving.”—ACTS 20:35.
SONGS: 153, 74
1. How does creation give evidence of Jehovah’s generosity?
EVEN though Jehovah was completely alone before he began to create, he was not thinking only of himself. On the contrary, he gave the gift of life to intelligent creatures, both spirit and human. “The happy God,” Jehovah, loves to give good things. (1 Tim. 1:11; Jas. 1:17) And since he also wants us to be happy, he teaches us to be generous.—Rom. 1:20.
2, 3. (a) Why does giving make us happy? (b) What will we consider?
2 God made man in his image. (Gen. 1:27) That is, we were created to reflect his personality. In order to attain happiness and fulfillment, then, we need to follow Jehovah’s example by being interested in others and by being generous givers. (Phil. 2:3, 4; Jas. 1:5) Why? Quite simply because Jehovah lovingly designed humans that way. Despite our imperfection, we can succeed in imitating Jehovah’s generosity.
3 The Bible tells us how we can be generous givers. Let us review some of the lessons that the Scriptures teach on this topic. We will see how being generous leads to God’s favor and how cultivating this quality helps us to fulfill the role God has given us. We will also examine how our generosity is connected with our happiness and why we need to keep on cultivating this quality.
HOW WE CAN ENJOY GOD’S FAVOR
4, 5. What examples of generosity have Jehovah and Jesus set for us?
4 Jehovah wants his human creation to imitate him, so it makes him happy when we are generous. (Eph. 5:1) It is very clear from the way that we are made and from the beauty and riches of our natural environment that God wants humans to be happy. (Ps. 104:24; 139:13-16) Hence, we honor him when we strive to make others happy.
5 True Christians imitate the Christ, who provided us with the perfect example of how a human can be generous. Jesus himself stated: “The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his life as a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matt. 20:28) Hence, the apostle Paul urged Christians: “Keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus . . . He emptied himself and took a slave’s form.” (Phil. 2:5, 7) Each of us would do well to ask, ‘Can I follow Jesus’ example even more closely than I am already doing?’—Read 1 Peter 2:21.
6. What lesson did Jesus teach us in the parable of the neighborly Samaritan? (See opening picture.)
6 We can enjoy Jehovah’s favor by imitating his and Christ’s perfect examples, by being interested in the welfare of others, and by looking for ways to care for their needs. Indeed, in the parable of the neighborly Samaritan, Jesus made clear that he expected his followers to go out of their way to help others, even those of a different background. (Read Luke 10:29-37.) Do you recall the question that moved Jesus to recount the parable of the neighborly Samaritan? A Jew asked him: “Who really is my neighbor?” Jesus’ answer shows that like the Samaritan we must be willing to give generously if we are to enjoy God’s favor.
7. How is our being selfish or unselfish connected with the universal issue?
7 Christians have many good reasons to practice generosity. For example, this quality is related to the issue Satan raised in the garden of Eden. How so? Satan asserted that Adam and Eve—and by extension all humanity—would be better off focusing on themselves and putting the pursuit of their own interests ahead of obedience to God. Eve acted out of a selfish desire to be like God. Adam manifested a selfish desire to please Eve. (Gen. 3:4-6) The results of their decisions are plain to see. Selfishness does not lead to happiness; quite the opposite. By being generous, we demonstrate our conviction that God’s way of doing things is the best.
FULFILLING THE ROLE GOD HAS GIVEN TO HIS PEOPLE
8. Why should the first human couple have been interested in giving?
8 God gave the first human couple instructions that should have made them think about the welfare of others, even though they were alone in the garden of Eden. Jehovah blessed Adam and Eve and encouraged them to multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. (Gen. 1:28) Just as the Creator was keenly interested in the welfare of his creation, the first human parents should have been interested in the happiness of their unborn children. Paradise was to be extended earth wide for the benefit of Adam’s offspring. That huge project would require the cooperation of his ever-growing family.
9. Why would extending Paradise have led to happiness?
9 For perfect men and women, working to extend Paradise would have meant cooperating to the full with Jehovah to achieve his purposes, thereby entering into his rest. (Heb. 4:11) Imagine how fulfilling and rewarding that project would have been! Giving of themselves for the welfare of others would have brought them great blessings and immense satisfaction.
10, 11. How can we fulfill the commission to preach and make disciples?
10 Today, Jehovah has given his people the work of preaching and making disciples. To fulfill that commission, we need to be sincerely interested in the welfare of others. We can endure in this work only if we have the right motivation—love for God and love for our neighbor.
11 In the first century C.E., Paul referred to himself and certain close associates as “God’s fellow workers” because of their role in planting and watering the seed of Kingdom truth. (1 Cor. 3:6, 9) Today, we too can be “God’s fellow workers” by generously giving of our time, resources, and energy to the divinely commissioned preaching work. What a tremendous privilege this is!
12, 13. What would you say are the rewards of disciple-making?
12 Being generous with our time and energy in the preaching and disciple-making work brings great joy. Many who have had the privilege of conducting progressive Bible studies will tell you that few things are more rewarding. Great happiness comes from seeing appreciative individuals light up when they grasp spiritual truths, grow in faith, make changes, and start sharing the truth with others. Jesus also experienced great happiness when the 70 preachers whom he had sent out to the field “returned with joy” because of the favorable results they had experienced.—Luke 10:17-21.
13 Publishers worldwide rejoice to see the message of the good news affect people’s lives in positive ways. Consider the experience of Anna, a young single sister, who expanded her ministry by moving to serve in an area of Eastern Europe where the need for preachers is great. * “There are a lot of opportunities to conduct Bible studies here, and I like that very much,” she writes. “My service gives me great joy. When I get home, I don’t have time to focus on myself. I think about those with whom I am studying—their troubles and anxieties. I look for ways to encourage them and help them in practical ways. And I have become convinced that ‘there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.’”—Acts 20:35.
14. Even if few people respond favorably to the good news, how can you find pleasure in your ministry?
14 We can find happiness in giving people the opportunity to respond to the message of good news even if they choose not to listen. After all, our commission today is similar to that of the prophet Ezekiel, to whom Jehovah said: “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or not.” (Ezek. 2:7; Isa. 43:10) Even if some do not appreciate our message, Jehovah appreciates our efforts. (Read Hebrews 6:10.) One publisher showed an excellent attitude in this regard. He wrote concerning his ministry, “We have planted, watered, and prayed in hopes that Jehovah will make the interest grow.”—1 Cor. 3:6.
HOW TO BE HAPPY
15. How do many people react to generosity, and should their reaction affect the way we act?
15 Jesus wants us to find happiness by being generous. Many people react favorably to generosity. “Practice giving, and people will give to you,” he urged. “They will pour into your laps a fine measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing. For with the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you in return.” (Luke 6:38) Of course, not all respond positively to our generous giving, but when they do, their gratitude can start a chain reaction. So practice giving whether people seem to appreciate it or not. You never know how much good you can do with just one act of generosity.
16. What should motivate our acts of generosity?
16 Truly generous people do not give in order to get something in return. Jesus had this in mind when he taught: “When you spread a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; and you will be happy, because they have nothing with which to repay you.” (Luke 14:13, 14) “The generous person will be blessed,” said one inspired writer. Another said: “Happy is anyone who shows consideration to the lowly one.” (Prov. 22:9; Ps. 41:1) Indeed, we should give because we derive pleasure from helping others.
17. What kinds of giving will make you happy?
17 When Paul quoted Jesus’ words “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving,” Paul was referring not only to sharing material things but also to giving encouragement, guidance, and assistance to those in need of these. (Acts 20:31-35) By word and example, the apostle taught us to give of ourselves—our time, our energy, our attention, our love.
18. What have many secular writers concluded with regard to generosity?
18 Researchers in the field of social sciences have also observed that giving makes people happy. According to one article, “people report a significant happiness boost after doing kind deeds for others.” Helping others, researchers say, is important to developing “a greater sense of purpose and meaning” in life “because it fulfills basic human needs.” Hence, experts often recommend that people volunteer for public service to enhance their own health and happiness. This comes as no surprise to those who accept the Bible as the Word of mankind’s loving Designer, Jehovah.—2 Tim. 3:16, 17.
KEEP CULTIVATING GENEROSITY
19, 20. What reasons do you have for wanting to be generous?
19 It can be a challenge to maintain a generous spirit when we are surrounded by people who put their own interests ahead of those of others. However, Jesus stated that the two greatest commandments are to love Jehovah with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Mark 12:28-31) As we have seen in this article, those who love Jehovah imitate him. Jehovah gives to others, and so does Jesus. And they recommend that we do the same, for it will make us truly happy. If we strive to manifest this generous spirit in our dealings with both God and neighbor, we will bring honor to Jehovah and benefit ourselves and others.
20 No doubt you are already striving to give of yourself to help others, especially fellow believers. (Gal. 6:10) If you continue to do so, you will surely be loved and appreciated, and you will be happy as a result. “The generous person will prosper,” says Proverbs 11:25, “and whoever refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” Of course, selfless giving, kindness, and generosity can be shown in many ways and in many areas of your Christian life and ministry, with rewarding results. The following article will explore some of these ways and areas.
^ par. 13 Name has been changed.