Should You Tithe on Inheritance?

Maybe your uncle or parent just passed away, leaving you an unexpected inheritance—a gift out of the blue. You’re ecstatic. Or maybe you’re expecting an inheritance in the near future, and you already know how you’re going to spend the money. Have you considered whether you should tithe on it? It’s not a wage or paycheck, so do you still give 10% to the Lord?

Will Money Make You Happy?

One of the reasons you may hesitate to tithe on an inheritance is that you think the money will make you happy, so you don’t want to give any of it away.

A study on happiness from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology had some surprising findings. It compared the happiness of someone who won the lottery to someone who became a paraplegic. It found that their happiness levels were about the same six months after the life-altering event.[1] This shows happiness is fleeting even after a major windfall. Winning the lottery or getting an inheritance might make you happier for a few days—or a maybe few weeks if you’re lucky. But it won’t lead to long-term joy. The instant euphoria you feel when the money hits your account fades quickly.

This research validates what the Bible has been saying all along. Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income.” It’s so easy to think that getting more money is going to fix everything—but then you get more, and you face the harsh reality that it’s not what you think. Sometimes it even makes things worse. There’s a God-shaped hole inside each of us that money can never fill—although we sure try, don’t we? One study found that one third of people who received an inheritance had negative savings within two years of the event.

Let’s compare this to those who are habitually generous. A study by The Ascent compared habitually generous people to those who are infrequently generous. It found that generosity improved rates of satisfaction in every area of life: “generous people aren’t just happier overall — they’re also happier more often.”[2] They also rate their lives as more meaningful and are more optimistic than those who are rarely generous.

I encourage you to tithe at least 10% of any inheritance you receive and make tithing a habit in your life. The research is clear that giving is all-around going to make you happier than receiving—or even spending. God loves a cheerful giver!

Sudden Wealth is Risky

But don’t just tithe for the joy of giving! Another reason to tithe on your inheritance is that even in well-meaning situations, sudden wealth carries serious risks. Many modern-day lottery winners who unexpectedly become enormously rich overnight find themselves bankrupt within a few years. Windfalls often leave us financially flush but spiritually impoverished. Why? Because they create distance between us and our true Provider. The Bible contains many warnings for the rich for this very reason. Money is a gift, but our greedy hearts twist God’s good gifts into idols. Don’t allow wealth to drive a wedge between you and God.

This is where tithing comes in and can help not just prioritize your finances, but calibrate your heart to Christ. Proverbs 20:21 says, “An inheritance gained hastily in the beginning will not be blessed in the end.” Why won’t it be blessed in the end? Because an inheritance is often given to a recipient who isn’t ready for it. Greed sets in. And before you know it, it’s all too easy to blow the money like the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable who wasted his inheritance overnight. The only way to be free from the love of money is to give it away. That’s why one of the best things you can do when you receive an inheritance is tithe on it first and foremost. Don’t wait. Tithing loosens your hold on money. It calibrates your heart to understand that the provider of all your needs is God. So before you spend a dime of it, give God his share, your first and best. Then pray for his wisdom and direction about how to spend the rest.

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