When we grow old, there can be only one regret, not to have given enough of ourselves.
One of the greatest characteristics that should embody the Christian life is the act of helping others. There are numerous scriptures that talk about helping others.
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” -Luke 6:38 (NIV)
“A man reaps what he sows.” –Galatians 6:7 (NIV Truncated)
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” -1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)
“Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” -Matthew 20:28 (NIV)
As Christians we don’t have to look far to see the greatest example of what it means to help and serve others. Jesus’s entire life, although brief here, exemplified the act of helping others when he touched and healed the sick, when he got on his knees and washed the disciple’s feet, and when he laid down his life to give all a hope and a future.
Since much of Jesus’s life and ministry was dedicated to serving and helping others it only make sense that these characteristics should also be an important part of our lives.
One of the wonderful things about helping others is the numerous benefits that the giver receives as well. Here are 5 studies highlighting the benefits of helping others (based on UC-Berkeley’s Review).
1. Where you spend your money affects your happiness.
A 2008 study done by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School, examined if where a person spent their money affected their happiness.
A total of 630 Americans were interviewed and asked to report their income, their monthly spending including all bills and money spent on themselves, their general happiness, and gifts given to others or charities.
Regardless of a person’s income, people who spent more money on others or charities reported higher levels of happiness than those who didn’t.
Scripture to reflect on: Acts 20:35
“In everything that I have showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
2. Serving others helps your health.
A study led by Doug Oman of the University of California Berkley found that elderly people who volunteered for two or more organizations were 44% less likely to die over a five-year health period than those who didn’t volunteer.
Another study found that people who provided social support to others had lower blood pressure than those who didn’t. This suggests that helping others may have a direct physiological benefit as well.
Scripture to reflect on: Romans 12:13
“Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
When we show love, compassion, and generosity towards others what we are really doing is two things: 1) Practicing the same love, compassion, and generosity that God showed us, 2) Demonstrating one of the primary messages of the Gospel which is to serve and help others.
3. Helping others brings us closer together.
According to the book, The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky, when we serve others it not only helps others feel closer to us but also helps us feel closer to others. “Being kind and generous leads you to perceive others more positively and charitably.”
Scripture to reflect on: Acts 4:32
“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.”
Since God is the giver of all gifts (Psalm 24:1), we need to realize that our possessions are really not our own and that we are merely caretakers (Matthew 25:21) of God’s provisions.
Since we as Christians should be of a similar heart and mind, that is, focused on loving and serving the way Jesus Christ did. It should be no surprise that when we do help others, it helps unite us, helps us grow closer together in fellowship, and promotes more love and compassion towards each other.
4. Helping others promotes more gratitude in our lives.
Whenever we give the gift of helping others or are on the receiving end of that gift, we often experience feelings of gratitude.
According to a study done by Robert Emmons from University of California Davis and Michael McCullough of the University of Miami, college students who counted their blessings experienced more gratitude in their lives which in turn caused them to be more optimistic, exercise more, and feel better about their lives overall.
Scripture to reflect on: 2 Corinthians 2:14
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.”
Can you remember the last time you saw someone giving food to a homeless person or someone opening the door for a stranger? What feelings did it elicit?
Every day we have a choice that moves us more towards love or more towards fear. When we make the choice of love in the form of helping others, our hearts are usually filled with feelings of gratitude. This study only further demonstrates how big of a difference helping others can make in our own lives.
5. Giving spreads to others.
A study done by James Fowler of the University of San Diego and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard found that when people give to others, it encourages others to do the same which multiplies the effect of giving.
Scripture to reflect on: Titus 2:7
“In everything set them an example by doing what is good.”
The last time I saw someone help a stranger, I was so touched by what they had done that I ended up driving around later looking for someone I could help. It didn’t take long for me to find a homeless man sitting on a corner with all of his belongings in a grocery cart next to him.
I immediately got out and gave him the meal I had bought.
The truth is, I probably wouldn’t have done anything that day had I not been inspired by the person who I saw help another. Always remember that the simple gift of helping another person may multiply itself over and over again without you ever knowing it.
A brief guide to giving.
1. Giving should come from the heart. No attachments, no “IOU’s,” and no expectations.
2. Giving is an individual matter that should be thought through in the privacy of one’s own heart.
3. Giving isn’t about gaining fame, admiration, or attention.
4. Giving allows us to receive both material benefits (mentioned above) and spiritual benefits. Spiritual benefits can include favor, multiplication of one’s resources, healing, etc.
5. Giving requires discernment.
6. Giving often does more positive changes to the person who is giving than the person getting.
7. Giving is a form of obedience to God.
8. Giving is one of the main forms of preaching the Gospel.
9. Giving strengthens the church.
10. Giving is a way that we show our gratitude for what God has given us.