Summer Allen: Three degrees removed

Home » Meditations » Meditations » Summer Allen: Three degrees removed

Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well. Ecclesiastes 11:6

“Several studies suggest that generosity can also be socially contagious. In one study, participants who watched others make generous donations donated more than those who watched others make stingy donations. Another experiment in this study found that when people observed empathic group responses to emotional scenarios, they were more likely to increase their own empathic feelings and to donate more money to a homeless shelter.

A different study, which involved a public goods game where participants could choose to act selfishly or cooperatively, found that every generous contribution that a participant made was tripled by other participants over the course of the experiment, suggesting that generosity can cascade through social networks.

In fact, the researchers found that a generous act by one person could inspire generosity in someone three degrees removed from them, showcasing how “each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she does not know and has not met.”

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

Solomon urges us to sow day and night because we do know know which seeds will take root and bear fruit. Here, the wisest person who ever lived tells us that our job is not to aim at results we cannot control but to do the righteous work the each of us can do.

For example, the farmer must focus on planting, watering, and cultivating, but even with all that work, outside factors like storms and pests can impact the harvest. That’s why God’s Word teaches us that God supplies the increase. He, not us, controls the results.

If we take that biblical idea and read it alongside today’s research, we see that our work impacts others and can even grow their participation in ways we cannot even imagine. It can touch others to the third degree removed, which represents people we have never met. How cool is that?!

So, while we may want to see certain results, let’s do the faithful work, day and night, that can lead to such fruits. And let’s pray God spread our impact to reach people “three degrees removed” from us, not by our might, but through fruitful people we could never predict.