The Happiness Principle: You’re Happier When You Give

The Happiness Principle: You’re Happier When You Give October 29, 2018
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Jesus made some pretty outlandish statements in his ministry: that he was God, that he was the light of the world, that no one could know God other than through him. Pretty over-the-top statements. The reason we worship Jesus and follow his teaching isn’t necessarily because his statements sound nice or even make sense. Much of his teaching is counter-intuitive and sometimes it’s just downright controversial. The reason we take with authority the words of Jesus is for one reason and one reason only: Jesus predicted his own death and resurrection from the dead, and then he pulled it off. Only guy in history to do that. If someone else can predict their own death and resurrection and then actually pull it off, I just go with whatever he says.

Tucked in the middle of Paul’s farewell statement to the Ephesian elders, we see an outlandish statement from Jesus:

35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Acts 20:35

That word “blessed” is the Greek word “makarios” and it can be translated either “blessed” or “happy,” but the reason we don’t usually translate it “happy” is because our English interpretation of the word “happy” sells the word “makarios” short. This Greek word “makarios” (translated blessed) is different than happiness because it describes an inner contentment that rises above any outward circumstances, and it’s much more long-term than the momentary ups and downs that can affect happiness.

So when you say you’re “blessed” from a biblical standpoint, it’s not a momentary happiness determined by outward circumstances, it’s an inner contentment, peace and tranquility that has nothing to do with circumstances. And here’s the first kicker: your inner contentment, whether you’re “makarios” or not, will eventually trump any happiness you may or may not experience. In the long-run, being blessed is a lot more important than being happy. For example, you see rich people, with more money, more fame, more toys than you’ll ever have, and they’re miserable. They may be momentarily happy but they’re not blessed. They don’t have that inner blessing, that “makarios” that only comes from living life God’s way. On the flip side, you can find people who are going through incredible difficulties, where everyone else would have thrown in the towel, and they have this contentment and peace that is almost supernatural. They are filled by God with satisfaction and contentment in life, regardless of outward circumstances.

And here’s the second kicker: if you pursue happiness, you’ll get it temporarily, but you’ll probably never attain a state of fulfillment and contentment, where you’d honestly say that you were blessed. But if you pursue the blessed life, doing life God’s way, you’ll discover happiness as a byproduct. It doesn’t have to be an either/or. It’s not a choice: you can either be happy or you can be blessed. You can be both, but you’ve got to pursue God’s blessing first and foremost.

That is the blessed life, and that’s the life we’re all ultimately after. Many of us think our lives will be better if we just had a little more money, but that’s chasing momentary feelings. If you want to be blessed, if you want “makarios,” you’ve got to approach it completely differently. How differently? Look back at what Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

If having money gives you momentary happiness then it doesn’t make sense to give it away, but that’s exactly what Jesus is advocating here. It’s what I call The Happiness Principle: You’re happier when you give. Sounds counter-intuitive, but what’s amazing is that science is now discovering research that backs up what Jesus taught 2000 years ago. In my next post I’ll discuss 5 Ways That Giving Actually Makes You Happier.

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