There is a great verse in Proverbs that says this, “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children” (Proverbs 13:22). In its Hebrew form, it means very literally what it says. An inheritance being possessions, endowments, and allotments. It isn’t metaphorical or allegorical either. However, I’m going to go a little metaphorical here since it’s a Wednesday.
When I was at bible school a few years ago we had a speaker who spoke about a character school they ran. The goal of their school was to test, train and equip in a way that brought out and refined the godly character of the students. They were required to do a lot, to be put through a lot, and to evaluate their own responses and habits in order to weed out some ungodly character flaws. The leader of the school also spoke to us on godly inheritance.
He is from South Africa, though he lives in the UK, and still has family in South Africa. When his children were born he bought them each a few head of cattle to be kept in South Africa by his father. The years went by and the number of cattle continues to grow. Their plan is that when each of the children turn 18 they can use this inheritance to put a down payment on a house. It is not a lofty goal, but one that requires forethought.
While he spoke of an inheritance financially, there are other types of inheritances we leave with our children and then our children’s children. Let’s look at some.
Malachi says that God ordained marriage for godly offspring (Mal. 2:15). Part of our responsibility as Christian parents is to bring up our children to follow God. They’ll have their own decisions and choices we’ll have to leave them to, but we are to model the Christian life for them. The ups, the downs, the triumphs, the defeats and day-to-day living as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Our children will be greatly affected by the quality of our spiritual life.
They need not start out where we did, but are to build on the foundation and platform we have given them. If we didn’t start following God until 20, there is no reason for our children to repeat our mistakes until they reach 20. We should expose them to God’s love and truth early and in a way that they are positioned to go higher and further than we ever did, and so our grandchildren will know God and serve Him in ways we couldn’t have imagined.
(2) In reputation, character and legacy.
We are not responsible for the decisions of our forebears, but often must live with the consequences of those decisions for generations. Wealth won and lost, scandal, criminal history, and trauma from broken relationships are just a few ways we are affected by our family before us. We can, however, start a new slate or – if we’re lucky – carry on the good name and standards of our family before us.
How do you want God, your neighbors, your children, friends and the community to remember you? What character traits do you want to exhibit? How do you want to glorify God in your life and the life of your family? A solid family with a strong godly character and good name gives a child a true gift. They grow up thinking that strong character is normal. They see that integrity, purity and love are attainable and that those qualities bring favor from both God and man. It reminds me of the quote I put on my Facebook page a while ago, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
Depending on our jobs or callings we simply may not be in a position to leave large quantities of wealth to our children. However, we can live and plan in a way that allows us to bless them as much as possible. Living prudently and wisely over the course of 50 years will do far more than you think, even on a smaller salary. A friend from college had grandparents who passed away and left her father around half a million dollars. At that point in his life he’d hit 50, was thriving in his work and was already financially stable. He decided he didn’t want to wait until he passed away to leave the inheritance for his children since they’d likely not need it by that time either.
He opted to help pay for his children’s graduate degrees and the down payments on their first homes. This way he could bless them with their inheritance when they needed it instead of later when they wouldn’t. Though half a million dollars of inheritance is not likely in most of our future’s, the point is a good one. Let’s live with our finances keeping in mind that it’s a blessing to give and that we can provide for our children and even their children with some forward planning.
Let’s face it, sometimes heredity stinks. There are things we will pass on to our children in our genes that we wish we didn’t have. Diabetes, heart disease, and food allergies to name a few. However, we can also pass on habits and practices that will set our children up to thrive physically. Do we eat well? I don’t mean all organic plant-based diet only. That ain’t living well, people! What is life without cheese and bacon? Okay. I mean do we value nutrition, fruits, vegetables and do we live in a way that shows we understand nutrition and our diet is vital to physical health. Do we exercise? If you have good exercise habits and raise your children to be physically active there is a very low chance they’ll turn out to be obese couch potatoes.
Exercise is actually enjoyable, addictive and pleasant when done as a habit. Most people who are used to exercise in their youth carry it on in some form in their adulthood. Do you manage your stress well? Stress is a physical slayer. Lots of your systems will go down the tube if you live a stressed lifestyle. Making choices with your physical body and habits that are healthy and functional, and training your children to do likewise, sets them up to thrive. That is just as valuable as some money. And it isn’t controlled by the stock market either.
Land, houses, antiques, family businesses, books, and collectibles are all ways we can materially bless our children and their children. I love looking through old photo albums and genealogy reports to get to know some family history. My maternal grandfather was a farmer and had more tools, toys and metal gadgets than you could shake a stick at. Before he passed away he made sure his friends and family got some things they wanted or would use. He blessed many a people in his last year with things he’d collected throughout his long life.
My paternal grandfather bought land in a prime place and left it to his sons after he passed away. Later, when the price was right, they were able to sell it and put it away for the benefit of the family’s future. Furniture that is modern now will become dated, old, vintage and then – one glorious day – antique. Why not spend a bit more on some pieces and get things that can become family heirlooms? Why not pay a little more for the hardcover and create a book collection for your children?
I believe it’s important we don’t live fully in the present. And I don’t mean dwell on the past or only think about “one day.” I mean we should live in the present in a way that sets up our children and our children’s children to thrive in their futures. It will mean some sacrifice on our part. It doesn’t mean no vacation or RV trip around the country when we retire, but it does mean being purposeful, thoughtful and prudent and making choices for the benefit of our family’s future. What better parenting legacy than to keep on blessing our children long after we’ve gone to be with our Maker?
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