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For Your Heirs

“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” (Prov. 13:22). The good side of an inheritance is that it gives children a start in life. It is one of the most effective forms of compound interest ever devised.

The bad side is that children often fight over an inheritance. One man said to Jesus, “Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me” (Luke 12:13). Some of them also waste it on wild living (Luke 15:11-13). The problem is not the inheritance. It is the heirs.

An inheritance is a good thing, but there is the danger of overdoing it. We may not agree with every word in the following quotations, but the overall thrust of these observations from the past is deserving of our consideration.

In 1834 Noah Webster wrote, “With most persons, the gaining of property is a primary object, and one which demands wisdom in planning business, and assiduous care, attention, and industry in conducting it. But it is perhaps more difficult to keep property than to gain it; as men while acquiring property are more economical and make more careful calculations of profit and loss, than when they hold large possessions. Men who inherit large possessions are particularly liable to waste property, and fall into poverty. The greatest hereditary estates in this country are usually dissipated by the second or third generation. The sons and grandsons of the richest men are often hewers of wood and drawers of water to the sons and grandsons of their father’s and grandfather’s servants” (Advice to the Young).

From the Millennial Harbinger of 1840 we read these words: “Many an unwise parent labors hard, and lives sparingly all his life, for the purpose of leaving enough to give his children ‘a start in the world’ as it is called. Setting a young man afloat with money left him by his relatives, is like tying bladders under the arms of one who cannot swim: ten chances to one he will lose his bladders and go to the bottom. Teach him to swim, and he will never need the bladders. Give your child a sound education, and you have done enough for him. See, too, that his morals are pure, his mind cultivated, and his whole nature made subservient to the laws which govern men...The earlier you teach him to depend on his own resources, the better.”

The same volume has this advice: “You must throw a man upon his own resources to bring him out. The struggle which is to result in eminence is too arduous, and must be continued too long to be encountered and maintained voluntarily...He who has fortune to fall back upon, will slacken from his efforts and finally retire from the competition.”

The most valuable inheritance you can leave your children is not land, money, or houses. It is the wisdom of the Holy Scriptures. That understanding will enable them to gain “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (I Peter 1:4).


West End Bulletin for March 21, 2021


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