Jesus himself said:`It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” Acts 20:35
“Can you teach yourself to be happy?” That was the title of an article in a magazine I bought last week. So feeling a bit down about the rugby, I picked it up and read what I had to do to change my mood. It was a bit of a shock.
Most of the time when I feel low I think that what I need to do is more things for myself. This might be going for a walk with the dog or watching what I want on the telly or eating some more cake. I need to make my pleasure the greatest goal for a while so that I can be happy. Apparently scientific research disagrees with me! (And so does the Bible – we’ll get to that in a moment…).
The article was about an organisation called Action for Happiness. The surprising thing that they have found is “…the more we strive for personal happiness the less likely we are to find it.” So what is the solution? “…nothing is more conducive to happiness than to give with no thought of reward; count your blessings.” And that from a non-Christian group is remarkably biblical.
It shouldn’t surprise us because no one is more happy than God. He is perfectly content within himself. And he is the eternally loving, giving Trinity. A God of relationship where the Father gives to the Son and the Son to the Father and the Spirit to them both and so on.
So as Christians we should know that at the heart of happiness is giving to others, without thinking of what we can get for ourselves. It’s that last little caveat that so often robs us of happiness. We give but we want praise. We give but we control of their lives. We give but we want security from them. We give but we want them to reciprocate. And so we give, but when we don’t receive we get grumpy.
The apostle Paul ends his speech to the Ephesian elders by saying Acts 20:35 “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said:`It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” In other words I have worked hard so that you might hear the gospel. Not demanding that you think about my needs, but living my life so that I might serve you. A self-giving attitude like that is the way to be blessed. The word used could equally be translated as “happy”.
So the next time you’re moping around thinking that happiness is about others giving to you. Why not go and do something for them… without expecting anything in return! And see how you feel.
I might just go and have a cake now…