The Scientific Reason Why ‘It Is More Blessed to Give than To Receive’

Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

“It is more blessed to give than receive” — (Acts 20:35).

This statement might just be the most unbelieved beatitude in the Bible. The giver is happier than the getter? Impossible! Is it a mistake?

Acquiring and hoarding — whether it’s money, possessions, or people — is a part of our default nature. We believe having all these things gives us security and happiness.

But they don’t. The only thing they give us is excitement which lasts for some time then fades away. To get the same excitement, then, we need to keep acquiring more things.

That means buying stuff we don’t need, seeking love from others, and endlessly pursuing money.

Being on the receiving end feels good in the short term, which, by the way, can be as short as a few minutes. Giving on the other hand makes us happier.

While one might need pages to explain this claim, for now, only look back to a time when you gave something selflessly. It can be tangible or non-tangible. But I’m sure you felt happier, blissful, and in a good mood afterward.

Fortunately, these findings are not just empirical because science is catching up with what the scriptures have told us.

Generosity is A Crucial Part of Human Life

A study from UC Berkeley points out that humans are biologically wired for generosity, a reality that flies in the face of “decades of research and centuries of conventional wisdom.” In fact, they’ve gone so far as to outline generosity as a necessary trait for survival.

For a long time, evolutionists didn’t recognize these spiritual principles but now they’ve started to factor them in their theories.

You may think that generosity as a trait is getting undue importance. But perhaps you’re not thinking about the happiness people get by being generous.

Professor Michael Norton and his colleagues at Harvard Business School confirmed the truth of Acts 20:35 by finding that people were happier when they gave money to someone rather than spend it on themselves!

The best part? The findings contradicted the expectations of the participants as well. Acts of kindness like giving to charity releases endorphins into the brain, thereby giving a positive feeling.

In a 2006 study from the National Institutes of Health, authors studied the neural mechanisms of charitable giving through MRI scans. As a part of the study, participants were given huge sums of money but had to give 40% of it away.

To everyone’s surprise, not only did participants feel happier while giving money but they wanted to give more rather than keep the money for themselves. As the researchers put it, “Remarkably, more anterior sectors of the prefrontal cortex are distinctively recruited when altruistic choices prevail over selfish material interests.”

This positive feeling is called the “Helper’s High” — when people engage in charitable acts, the brain regions associated with social connection, trust, and pleasure are activated, creating a “warm glow.”

The fact of the matter is that by helping others we help ourselves, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

The 2010 Do Good Live Well Study of 4,582 Americans by United Healthcare found that people who regularly volunteer have less trouble sleeping, less anxiety, and even a stronger sense of control over their chronic health conditions than the average.

Even more surprisingly, in Why Good Things Happen To Good People, Stephen Post writes that giving also increases health benefits in people with chronic illnesses like HIV and multiple sclerosis. These benefits include lowering blood pressure, reducing anxiety and depression, and increasing the overall quality of life.

Final Thoughts

Since humans are increasingly becoming logical and deny to accept anything unless it comes with a scientific claim, it was important to start with the evidence.

But these studies, in my opinion, do nothing but rediscover what many scriptures, religions, saints, and yogis have told us for millennia. This statement from Acts 20:35 is a great example of that.

Spiritually speaking, there are great benefits to focus more on giving than receiving. It helps us develop our faith in a higher power and realize the interconnectedness of all humanity.

For a long time, science could not explain these concepts. It said that the world follows the principle of “survival of the fittest” where one wins only by making someone else suffer. Where one gains only by taking for others.

Giving more helps us defy these delusions. Whether you give money, time, or service to others, you put out energy that will be reciprocated.

Giving wins happiness for the giver and expands his heart to loftier realities. In the end, you will not only feel happy but exceedingly free from attachment because you will no longer have the urge to hold everything for yourself.

In this way, the act of giving makes you freer, blissful, and of course, as the statement says, more blessed.

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Written on September 9, 2021