“A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.” (Proverbs 13:22)
We all want to feel financially secure, right? We want our credit cards and student loans paid off, no mortgage or car payment, a sizable nest egg for our retirement, and steady growth in our investments. Often, we shore up our savings accounts in order to provide for our children, because we see that they will need help down the road.
Some of the greatest joys are being able to give gifts to our children, not because of how we feel by giving, but because we feel joy from blessing others. But what does the Bible say about what we leave for future generations?
#1 Fleeting Security and Stability
This proverb teaches the simple truth that our wealth is not permanent, and cannot prevent us from leaving this world without the money we have accumulated. Whether we were honest or dishonest in our gain, we can’t take anything with us when we go. In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon knew the pitfalls of trusting in wealth and understood that, once we die, others will benefit from the fruits of our labor (Ecclesiastes 2:20-21).
#2 False Sense of Sufficiency
The danger here is trusting in our wealth to become our salvation. This is a form of idolatry (Exodus 20:4), which is expressly forbidden throughout Scripture. God wants to be the source of our lives, and anything that we trust in for our security and stability above Him is a danger to our souls.
Jesus told a parable describing the foolishness of trusting in our money and possessions to save us (Luke 12:16-20). In the parable, a rich man looked around at his wealth and decided to spend it on ways to grow even wealthier. He sought peace in financial gain and wanted nothing more than to retire early and enjoy the pleasures of life. But God warned him that he would die that very night, making his efforts pointless and removing the security he thought he had.
The book of Proverbs, as well as other passages, warn against trusting in wealth and identify such greed with wickedness and unrighteousness. Those who pursue wealth for wealth’s sake are to be singled out for punishment by God, and God frequently condemns those who live opulent lives at the expense of the poor or at the exclusion of proper worship and holiness.
#3 Faithful Stewardship and Service
On the other hand, those who care for others with their gifts are accorded special honor by God. Jesus was often touched by lavish displays of affection (Luke 7:36-50) and praised those who gave what they could regardless of the gifts of others (Luke 21:1-4). The blessing was not in the size of their gifts. For example, the woman who anointed Jesus’s feet used oil that was worth a year’s salary, while the poor widow gave only pennies when compared to the lavish gifts of the Pharisees. The key was the motivation of their hearts.
The “good man” in Proverbs 13:22 was not simply generous in his giving. He could have given an unwarranted or overly large inheritance to his grandchildren, spoiling them instead of simply providing for them. This would not have been a wise application of God’s intentions with this verse, and others like it. Rather, this man knew that he was merely a temporary steward of the money God blessed him with, so he was careful and wise with how he used it and made sure that he could provide for his family long after he was gone.
#4 Following in Submission and Selflessness
God commends our generosity in giving. Jesus taught that how we give has a direct relation to how God will give to us (Luke 6:38). This does not mean that we must write blank checks to others, or that we should be reckless with our money. God also teaches responsibility and common sense with how we manage our wealth and possessions and knows that we can only give out of what He has given us.
If we look to Him for guidance and wisdom, and seek His face first, He will provide for our needs as well (Matthew 6:33, 19:27-29). There is nothing wrong with enjoying our lives (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25), but a faithful and responsible steward will ensure that others can benefit from their work. “Leaving an inheritance” was considered an essential part of managing a person’s wealth in biblical times, so that when they died, their families were not left destitute. This kind of care for one’s family was frequently recognized and honored by God as righteous living, and a sign of a heart devoted to Him.
This kind of provision for posterity will look different in every case, but we should be faithful to leave good gifts for our children and families. This shows that we are not simply trying to earn and save as much money as possible for our own security. Instead, we are using the gifts that God has given us to bless those around us. We can’t take it with us when we die, and selfish greed in this life is never the answer. How can you show good stewardship in your finances, and how is God leading you to use your money for the service of others?
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.