Last week, whilst out walking with a friend, I had a sudden craving for teriyaki chicken. We tracked down a Korean-Japanese takeaway, where I treated her to lunch. It was a simple, delicious and inexpensive meal. A few days later, my friend arrived at my doorstep, laden with two large, exquisitely presented boxes. Each bore a delicacy prepared that morning; a rich chocolate mousse cheesecake and freshly baked artisan bread. It was my friend’s way of saying thank you. Staggered by her generosity, I took possession of this unexpected bounty, with the word “abundance” ringing in my ears.

When I was a child, I was taught to give freely, which meant expecting nothing in return. This was demonstrated by a beautiful custom in our community. Whenever my mother cooked something special, she would set aside a plate for a neighbour and send me round to deliver it. However, I was under strict instructions to bring the empty plate home, immediately. This was to ensure the neighbour felt no obligation to return the favour. Likewise, when we received food, we too respected the tradition and promptly handed back an empty plate. These were not hollow gestures. They were acts of faith founded on the belief that, when we serve Creation, we serve the Creator. No other reward was needed. This meant giving was an act of worship, which also made us feel good.

It’s now scientifically proven that giving is good for our health.MRI scans show that when we give, the pleasure centres at the front of the brain, light up and our immune system receives a boost. Also, it doesn’t matter what we give – whether it’s our time, money or food – it all has the same positive impact on our health. According to Dr. Avery Jackson, a neurosurgeon, “God has created us in such a unique way that when we give, there is a physiological response, which helps our minds and bodies literally”.

The only caveat to giving is that it should be unconditional. If we have expectations of reciprocity, we may run into difficulties. God asks us to look beyond earthly recognition – He will reward us a hundredfold with abundance. Naturally, we all expect a little appreciation when we do things for others. A word of thanks or a small gesture can go a long way. However, there are times when our generosity is met with ingratitude or silence. This can sour our enjoyment and discourage future good deeds. Years ago, I was disappointed with the behaviour of a person I’d treated with great kindness. However, I eventually realised I had been motivated to act because of my love for God – not the individual. This perspective released me from dwelling on the reactions of recipients and enabled me to simply enjoy the process of giving. As the Bible says, “God loves a cheerful giver” (Corinthians 9:7).

So, when my friend arrived unannounced, bearing gifts, it was her way of saying thank you. But, the sheer magnitude of the gesture hinted at a celestial presence and I suddenly realised, it was also God’s way of saying thank you.

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