I could have told you that, it’s in the Bible

I enjoy it when I read a research paper in an academic journal which claims to give new insight into human behaviour and I’m able to say “I could have told you that, it’s in the Bible”.

In the book of Acts (20:35) St Paul says “the Lord Jesus himself said “it is more blessed to give than to receive” or as the Good News translation says “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving” or in another translation  “more blessings come from giving than from receiving”

Writing in the Harvard Business Review Michael Norton says “ whilst most people know they would benefit from expert help on how to make more money, they think they already know how to spend money to reap the most reward or happiness”. We all think we know how best to spend our money without advice from others. We follow our intuitions and the promoting of advertising and use our money to buy things we think will make us happy. 

The problem is that our experience and academic research both demonstrate that our intuitions about how to spend our money to bring happiness are misguided and wrong. Hence the maxim “money can not buy happiness” Those new TVs, cars, computers, clothing have almost no impact on our happiness. The good news is that we do know what kind of spending will aid happiness. You see the saying “money cant buy you happiness” isn’t correct its just we don’t know how to spend it. Spending our money doesn’t make us happy because we spend it on the wrong things.

In his research Michael Norton of Harvard Business School repeatedly found that asking people to spend money on others from giving to charity to buying gifts for others reliably makes them happier than spending on themselves. He tried it in a number of ways and in different circumstances including people we would judge as being poor. Always giving and spending on others made people happier than spending on themselves. So convincing is this that some businesses have stopped giving their employees annual bonuses to spend on themselves but instead give them vouchers which they can use to spend on charities or others in need. They find the reward to their employees is greater. 

With this being Offering October and remembering that it’s better for me to give than receive I’ve been looking at what the Church of England has to say on giving. In a  booklet called ‘Giving for Life’ they say.

“There is no shortage of biblical material on giving, with over 2,300 verses in the Bible on money, wealth and possessions. Jesus talked about it frequently, and over one-third of his parables relate to these topics. This material suggests generous giving should be:

a priority – assessed in relation to all of our income, and not simply the spare change after all other needs have been satisfied. (e.g. Deut 26.2-3, 1 Cor 16.2, 2 Cor 8.5)

prayerful – an act of worship and thanksgiving. (e.g. 1 Chron 29.10-14)

planned – but not prescriptive, and allowing spontaneous generosity. (e.g. 2 Cor 9.7)

proportionate – a realistic proportion of our income. (e.g. 1 Cor 16.2, 2 Cor 8.11-13)

given in community – both for the needs of others, and given with others for a common purpose. (e.g. Acts 2.42-47, 2 Cor 8.13,14). The act of giving shifts our focus from individual wants to a communal need, demonstrating solidarity with the poor and a commitment to working together in mission.

sacrificial – in that there is a cost to our giving. As a result, we will have less to spend on ourselves, and our lifestyles will reflect this. Those who have more to give, will give more (e.g. Luke 21.1-4, 2 Cor 8.2-4)

cheerfully and joyfully given – whether giving of money, time or hospitality, we give with grace from the heart, as an offering to God. (e.g. 2 Cor 9.7,8)”

I also came across what I considered to be a brilliant sermon on the benefits of giving  by Stephen Foster one of the curates at HTB, London. I shared this with some friends from St Tom’s and they agreed. 

Offering October gives us a great opportunity to respond to the academic research of Prof Michael Norton of Harvard Business School but more importantly to follow the teaching of Jesus.


Terry Huggins
CEO STN Trading
 St Thomas Norwich