Summer Allen: Cultural Factors

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Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

“Besides general social factors, research suggests that the culture in which a person grows up or currently lives also influences generosity. A study of children and adults from six different societies—the United States, Fiji, Central African Republic, Namibia, Ecuador, and Australia—used economic games to test how generous children of different ages were when that generosity came at a cost.

It found that very young children behaved similarly across cultures, but generous behavior began to diverge in middle childhood, when children appeared to start to conform to the norms of the adults of their societies. This finding suggests that although young children likely share a strong and universal proclivity for generosity, cultural forces can temper this impulse…

A different study examined the durability of cultural norms by measuring the frequency of charitable donations by immigrants and native-born people in more than 130 countries. This wide-ranging study showed that the generosity of immigrants was most strongly influenced by the norms of the countries where the immigrants settled, although there was still some remaining effect from their birth country”

Summer Allen in “The Science of Generosity” White Paper produced by the Greater Good Science Center.

This research reveals the impact of cultural factors on generosity. It affirms, perhaps, why the Apostle Paul would urge us not to conform to the patterns of this world. Cultural forces shape us in ways that undermine our Christian faith.

Rather than point fingers at other cultures, ask yourself what cultural forces aim to limit your generosity.

One culture might encourage hoarding while another might exhibit overspending. Some cultures practice sharing more openly than others. When we talk about these things we teach children to behave Christianly rather than culturally.

What can you do with your children or grandchildren to encourage greater levels of generosity and sharing?