Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spending An Inheritance

Last night I heard a man say that he was spending his children's inheritance. He laughed to tell us that the legacy he would leave for his children "to fight over" was who would pay the bills for the debts he left behind. He said this to illustrate that we need to be concerned about leaving a legacy of Faith in Christ, telling us that our attention should be on piling up treasures in heaven not on our bank accounts. I find the illustration flawed.

The Bible tells us we are to be wise stewards of what we are given. In the case of financial responsibility vs. profligate spending... Scripture comes down in favor of responsibility. Money is not to be an idol, it would be a false god (1Tim. 6:10). And amassing a fortune is not the goal of the Christian, the eternal glories are what we should seek after. (Isa. 55) But shouldn't we be faithful with everything we are given-- including money? Yes! All that we do as Christians should be found to glorify the Lord. I cannot see the glory in profligacy. I do not see good stewardship in living beyond our means and leaving debt to our children.

Throughout the Bible there are mentions and examples of God's attitude toward our money. The Old Testament sets up elaborate structures for the division of an estate. A double portion of the worldly goods goes to the eldest son along with the religious leadership and position as head of the clan. Proverbs 13:22 tells us a good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the wealth of the wicked shall be given to the righteous. And while we are in Proverbs, the Proverbs 31 woman is such a great wife because she can turn a profit on real estate investments and manage to feed and clothe the whole household while hubby is off confabbing with the other elders at endless church meetings.

What we do with money matters to God in the New Testament too. The apostle Paul worked as a tentmaker, when not imprisoned, in order to support himself in his ministry and not to burden the church with his debts. Jesus helps His disciples pay tribute fees by providing money in the belly of a fish (Matt 17:24-27).

Matthew and Luke both repeat Jesus' parable of the master who left his three servants with varying talents. In Luke 19 and Matthew 25, we are told that the master rewards those servants who are faithful with a little money by blessing them with more riches and responsibility. Those who are faithful in a little, we are told, will be given more... and told "Well done." And in Luke 16 when Jesus tells the parable of the shrewd manager the message is repeated with a twist: he who is faithful in a little is faithful in much and he who is unrighteous in a little is unrighteous in much... (Luke 16:10). Christ goes on to asks if we have been unfaithful in dealing with "unrighteous money" who will trust us with true riches?

If we spend our time and our money and our children's inheritance; if we are wasteful of the blessings that God gives us on this earth; if, in fact, we tell the Lord that He has not blessed us enough but MasterCard will fix that for us and the kids can pay it off later... Is that faithfulness in the little things? Does a legacy of debts and overspending tell our children that we served the Lord? I can't think so.

The Lord is faithful to provide for all our needs, down to the last dime. In the face of eternity, money is completely without value, it is meaningless, a small thing, a tiny test of our faithfulness, but if we are faithful (meaning responsible) with our money, using it to glorify God, then we show the Lord that we can be trusted with greater things and bigger opportunities in which to serve Him faithfully. And we leave our children a true inheritance.

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