What You Get From Giving: The Paradox of Generosity

Only the losers win; they’ve got nothin’ to lose.

The paradox of life is the more you give, the more you get. You find your life by losing it. You win by losing.

What You Get From Giving: The Paradox of Generosity

When you first begin living generously, it feels like everything is coming undone. It’s stretching and uncomfortable. But slowly, you begin to realize there’s more to life than what you own and can hold onto.

You begin to understand true abundance. You start living.

Radical generosity in my life

My first experience with this upside-down way of living was in college. I had some friends visiting from out of town and had $10 to my name.

They were driving cross-country, and I wanted to take care of them. But I was also concerned about blowing my last ten bucks. So I said a prayer, asking for provision, and bought the three of us coffee.

Everywhere I looked after that, people were offering me meals for free, giving me stuff, or anonymously leaving money in places where I would find it. It was bizarre and unbelievable.

This has now become a way of life for me. While I still struggle with holding on, I’m learning that the finer things in life cannot be purchased. They can only be discovered through generosity. (Click here to tweet that.)

Why don’t we give?

We’re scared. We’re lazy. We believe the Great Lie: Life is all about you. As a result, we often feel empty. Never satisfied. Always searching.

Henry David Thoreau said:

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.

That unsung song is love: radical, reckless, giving love. The more you give your life away, the more you will find it.

What life is really about

You’ve been lied to. You were told that if you worked hard enough, that if you put enough hours in and got good enough grades that you’d be happy, that you’d get your reward. And then, you could start living.

But face it: something about this just feels wrong. Trust that feeling. There is a longing in your heart, an emptiness in your soul, waiting to be filled. This is not an accident. This exists to remind you that there’s something more.

It’s that nagging feeling that Morpheus put words to in The Matrix:

You’ve been living in a dream world… 

We must wake up. We must sing the song of love. We must live it with intentionality and audacity. We must be generous. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t come naturally. But it’s how we were created to live. It’s the only way, I’m quite convinced, that we find the satisfaction we’re searching for.

While there are legitimate health, business, and psychological benefits to generosity, the most important one is this: it gives your life meaning.

Where do we start?

Begin small. Here are a few ideas:

So what are you waiting for? I dare you to be generous. Then — and only then — may you find these words from Albert Einstein to be true:

The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving.

Note: Want to read more about this? Check out my book, Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life.

What do you get from giving? What fruit have you seen from living generously? Share in the comments.

50 thoughts on “What You Get From Giving: The Paradox of Generosity

  1. Love the post. Giving does turn life upside down. I think it’s also cool how once you start giving, you begin to notice and look for more opportunities that you would have never seen before.

  2.  Good stuff Jeff.  I have not had a “real” job since August.  I have learned that real generosity comes from a place of trust in the Lord.  I think that a lack of trust is one of the greatest hinderances to generosity. I have story after story after story of God meeting me in the place of generosity.  Even better I have story and story where I got “nothing” in return for my giving, and that will really check if your heart is in the right place or not. 

    God will bless our trust in him and grow our faith if we are faithful in our generosity. 

      1. I have noticed similar things for myself and others.  My examples are not as direct as your “last 10 bucks” example.  But, I do see how my needs seem to be met when I take my eyes off of myself and place my trust in God.

        I have also watched  friends give when they did not have anything to give and somehow still have what they needed.

        I think one of the biggest things is that our hearts change when we begin to look at other people, see their needs, place those needs above our own and then give/serve those people.  As our hearts change, we also begin to have a better perspective on our own needs and desires.

      2. Hi Jeff – I agree – I don’t have a concrete example such as your $10, but living in this way definitely opens up one’s life and perhaps the ‘rewards’ are not material, but rather just… LIFE gifts which can’t be bad – what else are we here for other than to live our lives and be a part of the whole?! 



        1. Oooh – and yes, it IS scary to begin with, but push yourself further and further into trust and you’ll be well rewarded 🙂

  3. This requires you to put ALL of your faith in God. If all your faith is not in Him then there us no way that you can do this. For with little faith brings doubt…

    Very good thoughts today. Give til it hurts!

  4.  Hi Jeff,

    I wanted to drop you a line and say HI. I’ve been following your blog for a month or so, and noticed recently that you’re a part of the BlogRocket community. I love your mix of content – the posts about how to be a better writer, blogger, etc mixed in with messages of truth like this one. I look forward to getting to know you more. Have a great day.


  5.  Hi Jeff. Can’t remember how I found your blog, but I’m so glad I did. It brings me joy just to read this post. I’ve lived both ways – holding tight and freely giving – and if only I’d known the joy and freedom of generosity, I’d headed in that direction much sooner. I have friends that actually take little print-outs with them to eat out – to help them figure out the exact tip they need to leave.  How silly. Another “friend” recently asked, “The tip is 8%, right?” I was shocked. Just be generous. 20% minimum because it’s easy to do in the head and then round up. I can’t remember where I heard it, but the principal in all things was “spending on your self –  round down, giving to others – round up”. 

  6. I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about giving is that the giver receives so much joy from it.  I’ve been on 2 mission trips (and going on my 3rd later this yr).  When I went the first time I thought that by serving others I would be helping them.  I was helping them but I had NO IDEA  how much it would impact me (the giver).  You are so right, when we give, the blessing we receive in return is amazing.

  7.  Great post Jeff. 

    Glad to see you got your site back up and running. I was scared for you last night… 

    My wife and I really learning the truth of this post, and are actively seeking to give and serve others in life. 

  8.  Great post Jeff. 

    Glad to see you got your site back up and running. I was scared for you last night… 

    My wife and I really learning the truth of this post, and are actively seeking to give and serve others in life. 

  9. great thoughts, jeff, and you inspired me to write a blog post about our “song”, too, it’s already mulling around amidst all of the other fun ideas i have in my head, ha ha, but i think it’ll be coming soon.  i love what you shared and it does seem so contrary to so much we’ve been taught–that in losing our life we’d find it…guess that’s what Jesus was always trying to remind us of–it’s not what you think… peace, kathy

  10.  “We must wake up. We must sing the song of love. We must live it with intentionality and audacity. We must be generous.” Love this! It’s who we really are. 🙂

  11. Fantastic advice!  It truly is that simple, but we often get caught up in our selfishness.  I just moved to a city from a very rural area, and I’ve been miserable for months.  It wasn’t until someone pointed out the fact that I was wallowing in my selfishness that I was able to see it.  Now I’m trying to live out the very generosity you talked about, and I’m finding life to be much more wondrous than before. 

  12. I love this!  It’s like Matthew West sings, “I throw a twenty in the plate, but I never give ’til it hurts.”  Simple giving is easy… giving of everything is hard and, naturally, it’s what Christ  has called us to do


  13. So true, and it’s amazing how these ideas pop up when you need to hear them or to reinforce something you’re already thinking about. I’m teaching S. E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders to my 9th grade class, and I just finished writing my paper on it (I try to write the papers that I assign) about a theme in the novel–the biblical paradox that “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it,” contrasting the characters Dally and Johnny and their approaches to living in a dangerous world. I’ve been having an especially isolated and depressing year and this is giving me the courage to make that change.

  14. Jeff, I oversee a food, clothing, and shelter ministry east of Sacramento, California. I am also one of the teaching pastors at our church. A few weeks ago I was studying for an upcoming message I am giving on contentment and how we truly experience it. My two thoughts for finding contentment were that we have to first get close to perfection.. Not us in any way becoming perfect but for us to get close to the one who is perfect. And that is Jesus. The perfecter of our faith and the transformer of our hearts. As we get closer to Him and deepen our relationship with Him he is going to ask us to do something… Which is the second thing to finding contentment. We have to live generously… In other words, give our lives away.

    Which brought me here… As I was looking up some things about living genourosly I came across your blog. Which then led me to your book wrecked. I have to say I really enjoyed your book and it spoke to me at so many levels.

    I found that it inspired me, validated some things I have experienced and challenged and convicted me in others. I was wrecked on a mission trip to the inner city of DC some years ago.. It’s why I’m doing what I am now. But I can never go back to the way I was before the trip. Nor would I want to. It’s not easy and there is pain but I have never been so alive!

    I’m speaking this message in a few weeks and I want to reference some of your insight and encourage our church body to read your book. I am blessed to be part of a very outreach focused church and I know that your book will impact many the same as it did me.

    Thank you,

    John Loera

  15. “Allow yourself to be interrupted.” I like that one. Interesting you put that there, because so many of us get caught up in what we have to do; our work, our family, personal/business obligations etc… that anything that ‘interrupts’ that focus is an annoyance.

    So I agree with that, we have to take time and let certain things disrupt our flow…. who knows where it might lead?

    Good article!

  16. Jeff, Loved the suggestion that allowing yourself to be interrupted is giving. We have had the privilege of being the recipients of the generosity of others. When living in Germany someone always anonymously paid for my soldier husband and myself to go to Bible conferences in Switzerland. Once when I broke my finger on a sledding accident someone handed us the money for the doctor before we ever left. Then outside our door tucked in a Swiss chocolate candy bar was 50 DM. I think fear is why some people don’t give generously. And I love how you mentioned being creative with giving, when you don’t have a lot. Great post, Jeff.

  17. I like the whole thing! this article is awesome! I love the way God used you! He has his ways of speaking to us! it’s so beautiful… He spoke to you through experience… and walk you through each step! to this I give God praise! for he is an amazing God!! keep letting him teach you and keep putting articles for each experience he gives you. Through this you canbe used to chang lives!!

  18. i am Vlad, russian from Estonia – great post – it touched me to beats of my heart – i am going to hospice next week to give what i could – thank you Jeff

  19. Hi my name is lea and ‘m reaching out for help at this time of crisis for my family in the Philippines living in poverty,. Please hopefully that there will be generous people will come by to my fundraising website and consider donating even just a little amount. I thank you so much for your help support, God bless you all! https://asmololea.weebly.com/fundraising.html

  20. I gave up my life , everything I own, my home , my belongings and came back home to help my aging Mother , I currently give all my income and time and energy to care for her. It is hard , I have a bed room as small as a cell and I give her the head of household status , the master bedroom and care completely for her. There would be no other way , the family has taken everything from her and worked her just about into the grave , they didn’t provide the barest of care for her. They wouldn’t even take her to the doctor when she was ill. I don’t get much from this, just the knowing that if i was not here , she would be suffering , most times she doesn’t realize what i have done or what i am doing. But i know , and i know what it would be without my giving, so it is worth it.

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