In Paul’s farewell address to the Ephesian elders before he departed for Jerusalem as recorded in Luke’s book of Acts, he reminds them of Jesus’ words: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” In Psalm 112:5, the psalmist writes, “Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely…” But is it really better to give than to receive?

As a psychologist, I’ve always been amazed at how the truth revealed through scientific research confirms the age-old wisdom of God’s Word revealed in Scripture. And yes, it is better to give—not only spiritually, but emotionally and physically as well. Psychological and medical research confirm that we are indeed more blessed when we give.

In his book, Why Good Things Happen to Good People, Stephen Post, a professor of preventative medicine at Stony Brook University, found that giving  to others increases the health benefits in people with chronic illness, including HIV and multiple sclerosis.

The startling findings from our many  studies demonstrate that if you engage in helping activities as a teen, you will still be reaping health benefits 60 or 70 years later. Generous behavior is closely associated with reduced risk of illness and mortality, and lower rates of depression.1 – Stephen Post

In fact, a study led by Doug Oman at the University of California, Berkeley, found that the mortality rate of elderly people who volunteered for two or more organizations was 44% less than non-volunteers over a five-year period.2 Surprisingly, receiving help was not linked to a reduced death risk.

Lowered stress may be the link between improved physical health and giving, as suggested by Rachel Piferi of Johns Hopkins University and Kathleen Lawler of the University of Tennessee. They found that individuals who provided social support to others as compared to those who didn’t, had lower
blood pressure:

Participants with a higher tendency to give social support reported greater received social support, greater self-efficacy, greater self-esteem, less depression, and less stress than participants with a lower tendency to give social support to others. From this study, it appears that giving social support may represent a unique construct from receiving social support and may exert a unique effect on health.3

Emotionally, giving makes us happier than receiving. In a creative 2008 study by the Harvard Business School, professor Michael Norton and his colleagues found that giving money to others increased happiness more than spending it on yourself. And this, despite the prediction by study participants that spending money on themselves would make them happier.4

A brain mapping study by neuroscientist Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health found that giving to charities activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect. In addition, the link between gratitude and generosity appears strong since they share similar neural pathways in the brain and seem, according to researchers, to work in tandem.

Are we surprised? We shouldn’t be. Nearly 2,500 years ago, the God of all creation declared through his prophet Malachi:

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it” (Malachi 3:10).

As He was yesterday, so shall He be today, tomorrow and forever. You can count on it.

by Dr. Al Barrow, Director/Spiritual Development Center

1Why Good Things Happen to Good People: The Exciting New Research That Proves the Link Between Doing Good and Living a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life (New York: Broadway Books, 2007).

2“Volunteerism and Mortality among the Community-dwelling Elderly,” Journal of Health Psychology, May 1, 1999,

3R. Piferi, K. Lawler, “Social Support and Ambulatory Blood Pressure: An Examination of Both Receiving and Giving,” International Journal of Psychophysiology, November 2006,

4“Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness,” Science 319, no. 5870, March 21, 2008, p. 1687-1688.