The Paradox of Giving

I have been building the fundraising library of The Lutheran Schools Partnership and recently added The Paradox of Generosity, a book that can be summed up in one sentence: “Those who give their resources away receive them back in return.”

As the introduction states, “The paradox of generosity should not be surprising.” There are  numerous examples of historical writers that have taught different versions of how to give and receive.  Everything from Proverbs 11:24-25, to Aesop’s fable of the Lion and the Mouse: “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

However, we modern humans want more… proof. This book does it. Using scientific, empirical, social-science research methods, the authors published a national survey of adult Americans and then chose a selected pool of respondents to interview in their homes for more in-depth discussions based on the national results.

For the book, they defined generosity as the “virtue of giving good things to others freely and abundantly” as a learned character trait involving both attitudes and actions. They measured the usual topics of financial giving and volunteering, as well as the concepts of being generous with time and with emotions to family, friends, and neighbors.

Their results? The more generous Americans are, the more happiness, health, and purpose in life they enjoy, and the results are consistent across all of the measured types of generous practices.

As you would expect, they also found the reverse to be true: ungenerous Americans tend to be more unhealthy and less prosperous than their more generous counterparts.

It is noteworthy that four areas of generosity actually did not result in more happiness and health: giving blood, organ donation, loaning someone something, and estate giving. I will let you read the book to get the details, but it could be summarized that their study was of generous practices, and by definition a practice involves doing something more than once and hints at commitment.

In any case, it appears that the present is again strengthening the past and the illustrations found throughout the Bible were more than just a suggestion: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” — 2 Corinthians 9:6.

Let me know if you want to borrow our copy of the book.