What makes up a good inheritance?
An honorable heritage is worth more than money. It has the potential to lay the foundation for future Godly generations. Investing in the following areas enhances the heritage you can leave behind.
Pass On a Good Name
One of the most valuable assets you can pass on to your children is a good name. (See Proverbs 22:1.) A good name is earned through the consistent practice of character qualities such as honesty, diligence, humility, kindness, sincerity, faith, and love. A good name is also the result of significant achievement. Meaningful achievements are made as God works through your life to bring glory to Himself through your gifts and abilities and to help others to learn more about Him and to grow in spiritual maturity.
Having a good name doesn’t mean that you are perfect, but it does mean that you live honestly and take responsibility for your actions. When you have done something wrong, ask for forgiveness and make restitution when necessary. “Having your conversation [behavior] honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation” (I Peter 2:12).
Share Wisdom and Life Experiences
God imparts to parents the responsibility of teaching His commands to their children and grandchildren. (See Deuteronomy 4:9 and 6:7.) It is important to help your children understand the ongoing conflict between good and evil, between God’s truth and Satan’s deception, and then to challenge them to stand firm for what is right.
Take time to explain the lessons God has taught you and how these experiences have helped form your character, decisions, and convictions. Along with sharing verbally, you can preserve these stories through personal journals or family scrapbooks. These resources can document how you established Scriptural convictions, how those convictions have been tested, and how you have gained wisdom through life experiences.
“Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. . . . All the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. . . . She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her . . .” (Proverbs 3:13–15, 18).
Acknowledge the Sins of Your Forefathers
Although children benefit from the character and achievement of their parents, they also suffer the consequences of the sins and weaknesses in their family. “. . . I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” (Exodus 20:5).
Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven of our sins. However, inherited physical, psychological, and spiritual weaknesses and tendencies should be acknowledged and combated with the disciplines of walking in God’s Spirit. Your children should be aware of the weaknesses in your family’s past, and you should prepare your children to respond to the temptations they will face in these vulnerable areas.
Help your children establish wise boundaries in order to abide by God’s standards of living. For example, if there has been a history of alcoholism or drug abuse in your family, it’s sensible to abstain from all alcoholic beverages and habit-forming drugs. If moral impurity has been an area in which your family failed, it is wise to employ accountability structures for maintaining purity in thoughts, actions, and relationships. If there has been involvement in the occult, it is important to remove occult items from the home and learn to rebuke the power of Satan.
Reject Early Retirement
Many have found that the lifestyle of retirement brings disillusionment, because routine idleness leads men and women right into the trap of purposelessness. Also, to step aside from active involvement and leadership roles is to deny your family and others the guidance of the lessons that God has taught you throughout your life.
In the parable of the rich fool, Jesus Christ warned of storing up riches for a life of ease: “And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully . . . . And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:16–20).
When God established the responsibilities of the Levites, he included specific instruction about assigning work responsibilities according to the strength and maturity of a man. A Levite was to actively support the maintenance of the tabernacle and its transportation from place to place until he turned fifty years old. After the age of fifty, he was to serve in a supervisory position. (See Numbers 8:23–26.) This arrangement gave the older Levites opportunities to draw from their wisdom and experience as they counseled and led younger men.
Understand the Purposes of an Inheritance
The primary purpose for the inheritance is to strengthen the family unit. The funds should be available to provide for the needs of the sick and elderly, the education of children, and the development of business ventures. They also could be used to provide homes for adult sons and daughters and to meet needs in the community by partnering with the local church.
Receiving an inheritance is not a right, but rather it is a responsibility. Failures and foolishness may reveal that a son or daughter is not capable of wisely stewarding his or her inheritance. Therefore, the inheritance can be a strong deterrent against rebellion, because as a means of discipline, it can be withheld.
Prepare an Instructive Will for Your Family
The potential of a will goes far beyond the disposal of property. A carefully compiled will can express the insights God has taught you over the years and can convey history, chronology, practical instruction, and future direction for your family.
The creation of a will may involve several stages of development. Initially, you will want to create a basic document that provides for the care of your children and gives direction for the transfer of your property. In the event of your death, this certificate avoids the possibility of your children becoming wards of the state and prevents your money from going into probate court. Once you have determined the basic content of your will, a lawyer can draft it using legal terminology and ensure that it contains the necessary provisions.
Subsequent additions to your will may give greater clarity and direction to the Scriptural functions of an inheritance. One of the benefits of preparing a detailed will is that potential family disagreements can be anticipated and worked out ahead of time. Scripture offers several examples of fathers addressing potential disputes before their deaths and offering vision and instruction for the future generations. (See Genesis 25:5–6, Genesis 49, and Jeremiah 35:6–10.)
Provide for Your Children’s Responsibilities
In Bible times, the firstborn son received a double portion of the inheritance. With this double portion came special responsibilities to carry on the goals of the father within the family. The firstborn was responsible to provide for his mother until her death and for his sisters until their marriages. Special training was given to the firstborn to effectively accomplish these tasks, and other family members were expected to accept his leadership.
If the firstborn son rejected God’s leadership before the father died, the double portion was awarded to the next son who qualified for the responsibilities. If there were no sons, the firstborn daughter was to receive the double portion.
As you design a will, consider the responsibilities your children will carry after your death, and make provisions for their needs.
Make Wise Investments for the Future
It is important to invest time and resources in areas that will impact the future, such as developing marketable skills, meeting the needs of your family members, and expanding God’s kingdom.
Generally, financial investments shouldn’t be made in areas that you cannot personally manage (stocks, gold mines, oil wells), but in functional assets (land and equipment) that are useful to you now and can be sold when other needs arise. Investments shouldn’t be made with funds from family and business income that is designated to provide for your family’s basic needs, such as food, shelter, and clothing, but from a separate fund that doesn’t put pressure on the family budget.
Making wise investments requires being a good steward of the funds God has entrusted to you. Your money is not to be a hoarded resource (see James 5:3), but a ready reserve to be used at God’s direction. Your investments should never violate Scriptural principles. Faithful stewards can look forward to receiving God’s commendation: “. . . Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21).
Become Rich Toward God by Giving
The Scriptures are filled with commands, warnings, and promises about laying up treasures in heaven rather than on earth. For example, the Apostle Paul penned these words in his letter to Timothy: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (I Timothy 6:17–19).
Giving to the Lord beyond the tithe should be prompted by Him, confirmed by your spouse, and consistent with Scriptural principles. Giving in the following areas is mentioned in Scripture:
- Giving to the fatherless and widows
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
- Giving to needy Christians
“Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality” (Romans 12:13).
- Giving to the poor
“He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again” (Proverbs 19:17).
- Giving to Christian leaders and ministries
“Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The laborer is worthy of his reward” (I Timothy 5:17–18). (See I Corinthians 16:15.)
Wise, generous, and joyful giving brings multiplied dividends for you and your family, both in this life and in the one which is to come. (See Mark 10:29–31.)
You will develop an honorable heritage for your family by equipping them to uphold principles of Godliness as they face the challenges of their generation. In turn, they will be able to share these riches with generations to come. May God richly bless you as you invest in these areas!
This material was developed from pages 249–255 of the Men’s Manual, Volume II.