Part III: What does the bible say about my estate?
The process of estate planning combines “remembrance” and “stewardship.” Stewardship really means management of another’s resources, like the Parable of the Master Going on a Journey (Matthew 25:14-30), discussed earlier, except God is not interested in our money, He already owns everything. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1). What’s the big deal about having a will or trust to distribute your money then? Read Matthew 28: 19-20.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. – Jesus Christ
(“The Great Commission,” Matthew 28: 19-20)
It’s never been about the money. It’s about winning souls for Jesus Christ (although money can certainly be a part of that process). It’s about responding to Jesus’ Last Will & Testament and making an impact in this world with all that you are and all that God has entrusted to you. The Bible provides the framework for understanding possessions, what to do with them, and how they affect our relationship with God. It’s about responsibility. How will you answer God’s call?
What about leaving resources to an unbeliever? Clearly, if an unbeliever is not familiar with the Great Commission, then the likelihood of your assets being reinvested in God’s kingdom are small. The risk of compromise is high. You are almost guaranteeing that money left to an unbeliever will be used for sin, evil, or to the whims of Satan. That may sound harsh, and it is, but the reality of the matter is a definite possibility. This perspective should be in the mindset of every believer.
What about leaving resources to a “carnal” Christian? Carnal here refers to the passage in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 where the apostle Paul uses the term to describe a Christian as living in the flesh, rather than having an eternally focused heart. This is trickier than the decision to leave resources to a non-Christian, because at least a carnal Christian has trusted in Jesus Christ for their salvation, but will this kind of person have the fortitude to handle the charge you would potentially leave them with? Read The Great Commission in Matthew 28: 19-20.
Will money be an obstacle for those you leave it to? Do they have the wisdom and maturity to handle the power money provides, or will it destroy them and empower sin? The financial guru, Dave Ramsey, is credited for pointing out that money will magnify the person you already are. Of course, this is not an original idea of his, but it is a great summary of the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Matthew 15:11-32. Take a moment to read this Parable yourself.
To summarize, the young son asked for his share of his Father’s estate early. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living, including “with prostitutes” (v.30). Later, after a time on pig-row, the son shamefully returned home having learned a lesson, and to his surprise, there was a celebration because he had a new life.
This story raises some important questions for the estate planner. For example, would large inheritance prevent your loved one from learning important life lessons (i.e.: the intrinsic value of working as described in the Proverbs)? One difference between this story and that of the story of an estate plan is that after you pass away, your prodigal child will not have a parent to return to. You cannot control what is in your loved one’s heart, and you cannot ensure the outcome when you’re gone.
Even more difficult for some is the answer the question, “Are your children fiscally responsible?” In other words, can your loved ones be trusted to manage assets wisely enough to support themselves and also invest in God’s kingdom? You know you want them to be, and you know you want them to rise to the occasion, but, are they? Are you prepared to take their inheritance away from them? Are you prepared to invest your time and energy to disciple them and prepare them for the awesome responsibility you hope to leave them with?
It would be remiss to write about inheritance without mentioning the wisdom of Solomon on earthly toiling. Read Ecclesiastes 2:17-19. “So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish?” (Ecclesiastes 2:17-19). Notice, of course, that “under the sun” is there as a qualifier. Those things sown in heaven are not considered “under the sun.” Do not focus too hard on earthly (“carnal”) things. Instead, contrast this with someone who had the pleasure of knowing Jesus Christ and learning the Gospel message:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Do you feel like you spend your days toiling under the sun without any gain? Many of us do from time to time, but consider this, “[t]o the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:26).
Invest in God’s kingdom, wherever He is calling you to give. Do not forget that your hands are the first executors of your estate. You do not have to wait until you die to give gifts or to invest in the kingdom.
God calls on each of us to invest wisely in His kingdom according to His wishes, which He has called each of us uniquely to participate in.
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