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Leaving Great Wealth Behind

Sat, Oct. 19, 2013 Posted: 12:01 PM


What Does the Bible Say About the Wealthy's Family Inheritance?

As we continue to endure the tumultuous ebb and flow of our economy and listen to the arguments over whose moral duty it is to “promote the general welfare,” there has arisen a movement that surpasses the desires of the most generous of benefactors the world has ever known—the billionaire club’s move to leave the greater part of their wealth to charitable organizations instead of their children. Over 100 of the world’s most wealthiest individuals and families have signed “The Giving Pledge” which dedicates the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.

Several articles have been written about billionaires who are planning to commit to this effort, and it would be interesting to consider the impact they could make upon the world. One article, "15 Tycoons Who Won't Leave Their Fortunes to Their Kids" gives a spectrum of various opinions why. Microsoft founder Bill Gates and wife Melinda are leading a movement to convince the world’s wealthiest to leave their fortunes to highly-selective charities and organizations by taking this pledge in the form of a signed document. In light of this monumental trend, several things come to mind.

The first thoughts are reflective of the wisdom of King Solomon, where he said in Proverbs 13:22, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.” In the Biblical sense, a good man (or woman) should first be seen as a person that God is pleased with. We acknowledge that through individually-unique business acumen and courageous entrepreneurship of the wealthy, millions have been employed, and wealth has been shared (not distributed) throughout the world! In addition, it is not as if the billionaires are leaving their children abandoned and destitute. Neither does the term inheritance simply means financial gifts.

There is also the family name and reputation to be handed down. A good parent instills principles that enable the child to live productively and manage the issues of life effectively, not live recklessly and squander that which has been given to them. Children also inherit a moral compass from their parents. Whether very strong or extremely poor, the manner in which the offspring conduct themselves is usually a direct reflection upon the parents. How often do we see children of the well-to-do propel themselves above others, and are able to escape responsibility and even the penalties of their actions? A good parent would be wise to help establish a good work ethic within each child, and rightfully evaluate and determine who, when or even if they were to receive any inheritance at all! One might soon recognize that billionaire parents could be doing the world and society a great favor by not leaving all of their wealth to their children, in some cases as an admission of their own failures to be better nurturers of their offspring!

Solomon’s observation also tells us that not only does the inheritance cover the children, but also their children’s children. In other words, the good parent would leave enough provisions, or prepare the offspring to carry forth the inheritance through at least the second and third generations.

On the other hand, as Solomon recognizes the good man, he also calls the hand of the person judged to be wicked. Are they the ones who refuse to obey, or even acknowledge the existence of God? Can they be the ones who have sought to establish and maintain their own kingdoms, empires and domains? Though they may despise God and his people, their wealth still flows into the lives of the believer! They may proudly boast of their unbelief, but the righteous still pray for them. Even if the unbelieving billionaire leaves his entire fortune to organizations dedicated to the destruction of Christianity itself, he shall not be successful. Ultimately and eventually, the wealth of even the wicked—all that was stored, directed and used to even counter the Kingdom of God— will come into the hands of the righteous.

Let us therefore conclude with one of Solomon’s most profound observations of life and wealth as it is summed up in Ecclesiastes 2:18-20...

18 Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me.

19 And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity.

20 Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun.

No person can control the flow of life after he is gone, but his best gift to give his or her children the better part of themselves when they are alive.

Dr. Melvin Johnson