Gift Giving: The Surprising Benefits

Gift giving offers emotional and spiritual benefits to those who give

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Charity volunteers give wrapped gifts to children

“Give and it will be given to you,” Jesus said. A gift can change both giver and receiver. Here are some of the good things that giving can do:

Fill you with joy. Ever gotten a rush from giving? Research shows that the brain chemical oxytocin is released when we give. This powerful neurochemical reaction infuses us with feelings of warmth toward others. It creates a generosity effect. Acts of compassion spur our bodies to produce more oxytocin, which encourages even more compassion and possibly even more giving. That’s a gift our own brains give us.

Promote empathy. Can giving change your mood? World Vision did a fascinating test of some 10 million tweets to study the emotional impact of charitable giving. One interesting discovery: Empathy for those in need could initially register as sadness and then be transformed into joy by giving.

Expand your world. Can giving fight loneliness? Giving connects us with others, whether we’re donating to a global charity or helping neighbors. Cheryl DeBruler, who works at World Vision, spoke about her family’s sponsorship of a child in the Philippines. “We get photos and updates. We’ve come to know a place that we would never have known before.” It’s hard to feel isolated when you reach out and give. Learn how you can join World Vision’s #ShineBright movement this holiday by visiting

Build a spiritual habit. Is giving godly? There are plenty of Bible verses on the topic. Paul wrote, “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). The size of the gift matters less than the spirit of the gift. Giving is habitforming, and the more you do it, the more spiritually beneficial it will be.

Surprise you. Do you have a secret? Some people prefer to give anonymously. “Do not let the right hand know what the left hand is doing,” Jesus said, adding that what you do in secret God sees in secret and blesses you for it. The recipient of a secret gift can be uplifted in unexpected ways, as Frances McGee Cromartie discovered. So can the giver.

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