For it is in giving that we receive — Saint Francis of Assisi

The song wasn’t necessarily memorable – a deep cut on an album filled with power ballads and overly sensitive break-up tunes. I can’t remember any of the other lyrics, but the words of the chorus embossed themselves in my mind. Give one heart, get back two. That’s the paradox of ‘I love you.’

Do you ever look back at the things you secretly wished to one day do? I recently found one of those wishes scribbled in an old journal from my college days. I remember at the time saying, “Oh, I don’t want to be rich, per se. I just want a comfortable life – a life that allows me to take care of myself and take care of others.” In that journal, I wrote, “I’d love to care for a widow someday – maybe buy groceries for her without her knowing about it.”

The thing is that, by my late 20s, I was making a decent income. By my early 30s, I had climbed the ladder to leadership. That comfortable life was a reality – and yet, I still said, “I can’t wait until I’ve got a little more time and just a little more money – because I want to care for others.” By my 40s, I was making six-figures with stock options and great perks. There was plenty of time for vacations and money for impulse purchases and offerings on Sunday mornings and presents for the kids selected off The Salvation Army Angel Tree at Christmas. But the wish scribbled in a journal about making secret purchases to benefit the life of someone else day to day? It remained on the paper.

Yeah, I’m a slow learner. I didn’t learn the true power of giving time, talent, and treasure until I fell head-first into full-time ministry. In fact, it was the very people I was working to support in developing countries who taught me that hands open to give can’t help but receive.

That’s right. Hands open to give can’t help but receive.

In some of the most challenging places where poverty and oppression weigh heavily, I’ve met some of the most generous people. Meals are shared often, neighbors rally to offer support to those who are sick, and communities gather to offer expertise and encouragement when new homes or businesses are built. When asked why they give, the response is always the same: “Because it’s the right thing to do – we are here to care for each other. I feel better when I give.”

You’ve probably heard the words, “It’s better to give than to receive,” from the book of Acts, or “Give and you will receive,” spoken by Jesus in the Gospels.

It’s easy for us to think we need to get MORE before we start giving it away.

But here’s the good news – God has actually designed us to be GIVERS. In fact, something wonderful happens to those who see giving as a priority even when it would seem far more reasonable to wait until everything is in order. It’s something you can experience right now. Today.

You receive. Yes, RECEIVE.

1. When you give, you receive CONNECTION.

When we willingly open our hands to give, special neurotransmitters in our brain have an opportunity to do their jobs well. The first, called the von Economo, works on our social intelligence – on how we respond to and interact with others. Giving fires up that neurotransmitter and connects us to those around us – and something greater than ourselves.

2. When you give, you receive JOY AND HAPPINESS.

Want to know why we feel better when we open our hands to give? The National Institute of Mental Health did studies on it – and they found that the act of giving opens up pathways in our brain for serotonin (which calms us), dopamine (which makes us feel happy), and oxytocin (which makes us feel bonded with others) to flow.

3. When you give, you receive HEALTH.

Emotional health isn’t the only benefit of giving. Our bodies grow healthier, too. The Cleveland Clinic reports that giving helps lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and improve mental health. And an University of California, Berkeley, study found that older adults who gave both physical and emotional support to others lived longer than those who didn’t.

4. When you give, you receive FREEDOM.

Perhaps one of the most fun benefits of giving time, talent, and treasure is the freedom given to everyone around you to do the same.

When you give to someone, you encourage that person to then give.

In fact, giving is so contagious that someone merely has to catch you in the act to be inspired. And according to research, thinking about what it feels like to give will inspire YOU to give again.

Take a few minutes now and respond to the following questions. Don’t merely make a wish list of things you’d like to do when you decide that time, talent, and treasure are in great supply. Instead, make giving a priority in your life today. Look at those responses, and find ways to share your time, talent, and treasure now.

Remember, hands open to give can’t help but receive.

Questions to Ponder: What TIME do you have to offer? What TALENTS do you have to share? What TREASURES might you give?