Is It Biblical to Leave an Inheritance?

As a financial advisor, when I discuss income planning with my clients, I’m constantly encouraging many of them to spend more. I remind them if you don’t start flying and traveling, your kids will be flying first class. Money not earned is rarely appreciated. You don’t value it the same way if you don’t earn it for yourself. And how could you? The person who knows its true value is the one who put forth the blood, sweat, and tears to make it happen.

Then when I mention leaving all or part of their estate to ministries or charities, their eyes glaze over. They think it’s a sin if they don’t leave an inheritance for their children. It’s my view that it’s not only biblical, I believe it’s more biblical not to leave a large inheritance behind to your children and grandchildren.

Instead, focus on leaving a generous legacy. If you don’t start giving now and you don’t give when you die, then your kids may spend your money in ways you don’t mind. But your grandkids may spend it in ways you completely disagree with. Why not do your giving while you’re living so you know where your money is going?

A Large Inheritance is Risky

There are many reasons why I don’t support giving a large inheritance. I’ve seen over and over where handing over a large windfall all at once can do more harm than good. Proverbs 20:21 says, “An inheritance gained hastily in the beginning will not be blessed in the end.” Why is that? Because windfalls are often given to children and grandchildren who aren’t ready for it. John Piper said it well that wealth is dangerous in and of itself, but wealth gained all at once is even more dangerous.[1] One study found that one third of people who received an inheritance had negative savings within two years of the event.

If we really believe Jesus’ words about money that you cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24), then why do we insist on leaving a large inheritance of money and possessions to our kids? It’s easy to scoff at the Greeks and Romans in the early ages who left their miniature clay idols as an inheritance for their children to keep them in the family for protection. Yet we give our kids a tempting idol far more insidious than clay barbies: We leave them money that most of them are not well equipped to handle in the first place. We pour it on thick to make sure they’re taken care of. Yet we are unknowingly pouring on temptation to put their hope in the things of this world instead of God.

Instead of leaving a large inheritance, give a warm hand instead of a cold hand. Consider contributing to a 529 plan or a Roth IRA for each child and grandchild. The 529 plan can be used for education expenses, from tuition to school-related expenses like housing and books. A Roth IRA can provide not just a jumpstart on retirement, but first-time home buying. You can open one for your child or grandchild at any age as long as they can provide proof of earned income.

Leave a Spiritual Legacy

The greatest legacy you can leave is not the financial standings of Rockefeller, but the legacy of the Green family who founded Hobby Lobby. David Green is one of the richest men in America with a net worth of $14.9 billion. But what does he do with it? Gives half of his company’s pre-tax earnings to evangelical causes. Forbes estimates his lifetime giving at upwards of $500 million.[2] The Greens haven’t prioritized wealth creation for generations, even though they easily could. But they’ve left behind a legacy of generosity and stewardship for generations to come.

I encourage you: Don’t waste your legacy trying to grease the slides for generations to come. Decide now to change your will or trust to give at least 10% of your estate to Gospel ministries, local church, and favorite charities. But don’t stop at 10%—think about what it would look like to leave 90% to further God’s work! This is one way to model a generous life dependent on Christ—even if it means making some hard calls. A wise person once said that your will and testament is your last act of stewardship on this earth.[3] What does yours say about you?





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