Joy in the Journey

I have the pleasure of working with church members who have discovered the joy of giving, and it never ceases to amaze me how joyful these folks are. While attending a recent seminar, I learned why that is. Do you know that God designed us to be cheerful givers? With the advances in science, we can now verify that we are physically affected when we think about giving. And it’s no surprise to me.

As a professor at Texas Tech University, Russell James has conducted studies that center around human responses to giving, especially charitable giving. While his study participants are put in brain-scanning machines, they are asked various questions and are led through “giving simulations.” When the neural imaging was analyzed, it was discovered that the precentral gyrus was activated, which released oxytocin in the body. Oxytocin is a hormone that makes us feel good; in fact, it’s nicknamed “the hug hormone” because we feel the same way we do when we are hugged.

This is additional evidence to me God designed us in a miraculous fashion. Like every other direction He has given us, if we follow His command we are rewarded. Whether it is observing the Sabbath or honoring our parents, each act creates positive rewards for us. Don’t we serve an awesome God?

If you can imagine every time you give that God is giving you a hug, perhaps we would look at our giving in a new light. If we understand that we are being directed to “give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord … which He has given you” (Deut. 16:17), we realize all we’ve been given is a gift. We’re just passing it on to continue that blessing, which makes giving really fun.

Scripture is full of reminders of the Lord’s benevolence to us. In 2 Chron. 9:7–8 we are reminded that “… God loves a cheerful giver and God is able to make all grace abound toward you.” We have opportunities each day to reap abundant blessing by finding ways to give. Whether it’s sharing a smile and a kind word, donating garden produce to a food bank, or providing a sacrificial gift, each act will be a blessing to those who receive it, as well as a blessing to the giver.

When we realize how we should feel when we give, it is important to analyze what might be happening if we don’t feel good about our gifts. If we are giving out of a sense of duty or obligation, our gifts become transactions rather than gifts. For example, during the Christmas season we may feel obligated to give gifts because someone has given a gift to us. If the basis of the gift is obligation, it really is not a gift at that point.

The same is true for our gifts to ministry. If our gifts are given for reasons other than those that are a response to our love, dedication and commitment to ministry and our Lord, it might not be a gift. Our motivation in gift giving is an important component of the exchange.

If we want to receive the full reward that God intended from gift giving, I would recommend we evaluate, prior to the gift, why we’re giving. Pray for God’s guidance and see where He leads. Make this an experience that is as true and deep a blessing as God intended.

Featured in: May 2016