Of the world’s 6.8 billion people, only 310 million live in the United States. That’s only 4.5 percent. Yet the United States owns or controls over half of the world’s wealth. It is quite amazing to think that just 4.5 percent of the world’s inhabitants own most of the assets, most of the world’s military technology and most of the political power. To take this one step further, estimates are that eighty percent of the world’s evangelical wealth is in North America–and the total represents way more than enough to fund the fulfillment of the Great Commission. The portion of this wealth that is not used for God’s Kingdom will be passed on to the next steward, often with a significant lack of training and planning.
The process of wealth transfer is essentially a spiritual exercise. It is not merely a financial or legal matter. We have to work it out in the presence of God and to His glory. What a marvelous privilege God has granted us to select His next stewards. But with such a great privilege comes great responsibility. As Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48b).
In today’s society, including Christians, it is common to keep as much as possible while we’re alive and leave it to our heirs when we die. Unfortunately, quite often the heirs are poorly trained to manage the assets. Further, less than 30 percent of men leave a valid will and of those most leave only about 20 percent of the minimum assets necessary to provide for their families. Why? There are two primary reasons: ignorance and slothfulness–ignorance, because most people have not been taught good stewardship; and slothfulness, because many people know what they should do, but procrastinate until it’s too late. “The naïve believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps” (Proverbs 14:15).
The Bible reveals that God provided for each generation through inheritance–the sons inherited their father’s properties and thus provided for the rest of the family. What is not obvious is that in most instances the sons received their inheritance while their fathers were still living. Thus, a father was able to oversee their stewardship while they were learning. Based on these biblical principles, the following are some suggested guidelines that, if they are implemented immediately, will help ensure a godly approach to inheritance.
Education of spouse.
Since seven out of eight men die before their wives, this guideline primarily relates to the wife. Be sure that the wife understands how to handle money well. If a wife has never managed money, the training starts with basic budgeting. The wife should actually manage the home finances for at least the next year. Then, if something happens to her husband, she will know how to manage the family finances.
Everybody should have a will. Without a will, the state in which you live will distribute your assets according to their laws of intestacy. Rarely, if ever, will this be according to your wishes. Husband and wife both need wills, and each should understand the other’s will. First, pray about how you wish your estate to be distributed, including the Lord’s work. Next, write it out as clearly as possible and have a competent attorney write your plan into your will.
Develop a plan.
In addition to a will, you also need a plan. Although each family’s plan will likely be different, the one common factor that should be evident for every Christian family is understanding God’s principles for managing money. With each passing year, you can pass on more practical experience and needed knowledge about handling money. The worst thing that you can do is pass wealth if you haven’t passed wisdom first.
The most important inheritance we can offer our children is a Christian influence that leads to salvation. Aside from that, parents must develop a godly approach to inheritance–one that is founded on fundamental biblical principles.
Rob West is the Training and Communications Director for Kingdom Advisors, a non-profit Life that exists to equip and disciple Christian financial advisors to integrate their faith and profession. Please send questions and comments to Rob.West@KingdomAdvisors.org.
The information in this article is for information purposes only and does not constitute advice. You should not rely on any information in this article to make (or refrain from making) any decision or take (or refrain from taking) any action.