What Inheritance Do You Owe Your Children?
PAVLOS, a family man from southern Europe, is rarely at home to spend time with his wife and children—two daughters, aged 13 and 11, and a 7-year-old son. Seven days a week Pavlos works two long shifts, attempting to earn enough money to make his dream come true. He wants to buy an apartment for each of his daughters, and he wants to start a small business for his son. His wife, Sofia, labors to accumulate linens, kitchenware, chinaware, and silverware for these additional households. When asked why they work so hard, they answer in unison, “For the sake of our children!”
Like Pavlos and Sofia, many parents throughout the world do their best to give their children a good start in life. Some set aside money for the children’s future use. Others make sure that their offspring get adequate education and learn skills that will be useful later in life. Although most parents view such gifts as a legacy of love, making such provisions often puts parents under great pressure to live up to the expectations of relatives, friends, and the community in which they live. Therefore, concerned parents rightly ask, ‘How much do we owe our children?’
Making Provisions for the Future
It is not only natural but also Scriptural for Christian parents to make provisions for their children. The apostle Paul told Christians in his day: “Parents should make provision for their children, not children for their parents.” (2 Corinthians 12:14, The New English Bible) Paul further stated that providing parental care is a serious obligation. He wrote: “Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.” (1 Timothy 5:8) Numerous Bible accounts illustrate that matters of inheritance were important among God’s servants in Bible times.—Ruth 2:19, 20; 3:9-13; 4:1-22; Job 42:15.
Sometimes, however, parents become preoccupied with providing a large inheritance for their children. Why? Manolis, a father who moved from southern Europe to the United States, points to one reason: “Parents who suffered the ravages of World War II, famine and poverty, are determined to improve their children’s lot.” He adds: “Because of their exaggerated sense of responsibility and a desire to give their children the best possible start in life, parents sometimes cause harm to themselves.” Indeed, some parents deprive themselves of life’s necessities or lead an austere life in order to lay up material possessions for their offspring. But is it wise for parents to pursue such a course?
“Vanity and a Big Calamity”
King Solomon of ancient Israel had a word of caution regarding inheritances. He wrote: “I, even I, hated all my hard work at which I was working hard under the sun, that I would leave behind for the man who would come to be after me. And who is there knowing whether he will prove to be wise or foolish? Yet he will take control over all my hard work at which I worked hard and at which I showed wisdom under the sun. This too is vanity. . . . For there exists the man whose hard work has been with wisdom and with knowledge and with proficiency, but to a man that has not worked hard at such a thing will be given the portion of that one. This too is vanity and a big calamity.”—Ecclesiastes 2:18-21.
As Solomon explains, those receiving an inheritance may not appreciate its full value because they themselves did not work hard for it. Consequently, heirs may treat foolishly what the parents strove to accumulate for them. They may even squander such hard-earned possessions. (Luke 15:11-16) What “vanity and a big calamity” that would be!
Inheritance and Greed
There is something else that parents need to consider. In cultures that are deeply concerned with hereditary possessions and marriage endowments, children may become greedy, demanding an estate, or a dowry, above what the parents can reasonably provide. “Alas for the father who has two or three daughters,” quips Loukas, a father from Greece. He says: “Daughters may compare what their father is able to give with what other parents ‘generously’ pile up for their children. They may point out that their prospects for marriage will diminish if they cannot bring along a satisfactory dowry.”
Manolis, mentioned before, states: “A young man may prolong the courtship until the father of the prospective bride promises him something for her, usually real estate or a considerable amount of money. It can become a sort of blackmail.”
The Bible warns against all forms of greed. Solomon wrote: “An inheritance is being got by greed at first, but its own future will not be blessed.” (Proverbs 20:21) The apostle Paul stressed: “The love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things.”—1 Timothy 6:10; Ephesians 5:5.
“Wisdom Along With an Inheritance”
Granted, an inheritance is of some value, but wisdom is of much greater value than material possessions. King Solomon wrote: “Wisdom along with an inheritance is good and is advantageous . . . For wisdom is for a protection the same as money is for a protection; but the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom itself preserves alive its owners.” (Ecclesiastes 7:11, 12; Proverbs 2:7; 3:21) While money provides a measure of protection, enabling its possessor to get what he needs, it can still be lost. On the other hand, wisdom—the ability to use knowledge in solving problems or in attaining certain goals—can safeguard a person from taking foolish risks. When based on proper godly fear, it may help him to gain eternal life in God’s new world soon to come—a precious inheritance indeed!—2 Peter 3:13.
Christian parents exercise such wisdom by setting proper priorities for themselves and their children. (Philippians 1:10) Material things accumulated for use by the children should not take priority over spiritual matters. Jesus encouraged his followers: “Keep on, then, seeking first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) Parents who set spiritual goals for their Christian family can expect to be richly rewarded. Wise King Solomon wrote: “The father of a righteous one will without fail be joyful; the one becoming father to a wise one will also rejoice in him. Your father and your mother will rejoice, and she that gave birth to you will be joyful.”—Proverbs 23:24, 25.
A Lasting Inheritance
For the Israelites of old, matters of hereditary possession were very important. (1 Kings 21:2-6) However, Jehovah admonished them: “These words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart; and you must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) Christian parents are similarly told: “Go on bringing [your children] up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.”—Ephesians 6:4.
Parents who have a spiritual outlook realize that providing for their household includes giving instruction from the Bible. Comments Andreas, a father of three: “If children learn to apply godly principles in their lives, they will be better equipped for the future.” Such a heritage also focuses on helping them to establish and cultivate a personal relationship with their Creator.—1 Timothy 6:19.
Have you given thought to providing for your child’s spiritual future? For example, what can parents do if their child is pursuing the full-time ministry? While a full-time minister should neither demand nor expect financial support, loving parents may decide to ‘share with him according to his needs’ in order to help him remain in full-time service. (Romans 12:13; 1 Samuel 2:18, 19; Philippians 4:14-18) Such a supportive attitude would certainly be pleasing to Jehovah.
So, then, what do parents owe their children? Besides providing for their material needs, Christian parents will make sure that their children receive a rich spiritual heritage that will benefit them forever. In that way, the words found at Psalm 37:18 will come true: “Jehovah is aware of the days of the faultless ones, and their very inheritance will continue even to time indefinite.”
[Pictures on page 26, 27]
What future do you have in mind for your children?