Back in 2013 a HSBC survey of more than 16,000 people in 15 countries found that only 56 percent of Americans planned on leaving an inheritance for their children—much lower than the 69 percent of retirees that intended to leave their estate to their kids.
What should we make of the knowledge that only a little more than half of Americans are looking forward to leaving something for their children? Should the number be higher? How is a Christian supposed to think about inheritances?
What Does the Bible Say?
When we look at God’s message in Scripture, it seems pretty cut and dried. Proverbs tells us: “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous” (Proverbs 13:22).
That seems pretty simple, right? A good man leaves something for his children, while a lazy or wicked person’s property is seized by a landowner or ruler. But does this mean that we should leave everything to our children when we die?
Biblical calls to leave an inheritance were during a time when a family could not continue to prosper if assets were not handed down. Most legacies were property and livestock. This is why we typically see the firstborn son getting a double portion of the inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:17)—they took on the burden of preserving the family.
We do not live in the same kind of culture that has the same reliance on the wealth of previous generations to sustain the current one.
We Are Called to Be Good Stewards
There are a lot of individuals whose ultimate financial goal is to die with nothing in the bank. They plan to spend their last dollar on their deathbed. That is not the ideal Christian plan for managing finances.
When it comes to our possessions, we are called to be stewards. This means that we recognize God as the actual owner of all the world’s resources, and it is our responsibility to manage those materials wisely. The ultimate question in all our dealings should be, “What is the best Kingdom use for the possessions and finances God has blessed me with?”
It is likely that inheritance would play a part in that thinking, but perhaps not exclusively. It is more complicated than a simple yes-or-no question. When we consider how our estate is distributed, it is important to factor in the Kingdom work of churches, ministries, charities, and organizations.
Should I Leave an Inheritance?
Being good stewards requires that we think more deeply about the inheritance question. Every family dynamic is different. Leaving an estate to family members can be an enormous blessing or an incredible disaster. That is why you should ask yourself some tough questions:
- How much money would bless my family without negatively impacting their view of work and stewardship?
- How can I leave an inheritance that does not ultimately undermine family relationships?
- What issues or problems might I compound by leaving them money?
- What discussions do I need to have ahead of time so that no one is hurt or shocked by my decisions?
Passing the Stewardship Test
What you do with your assets is your last big stewardship test. Spend some time weighing your options. Do not be afraid to seek out the wisdom of Christian financial counselor. They might have some ideas and suggestions you have yet to consider.
What is Stewardship and What Does It Mean For Me?
God has blessed each one of us a little differently. The challenge is to use whatever we have—be it money, time, energy, or skills—to serve God and grow His Kingdom. This means that we look at what we have and ask God, “How can I use this to glorify You and reconcile people to You?” When we consistently ask ourselves that question, we are well on our way to becoming good stewards.
We are all stewards of God's resources that He has entrusted to us. Remembering what stewardship means how how it applies to each of our lives is a great place to start.