Inheritance and a wise father: What do I give my child?

Jesus told a story in Luke 15 that went something like this: A man had two sons. The younger one told his father he wanted his share of the father’s estate immediately. To the older son’s surprise, the father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons, right then and there.

A lot of questions arise immediately: Why did he do this? Was it the right thing to do? Can this story help me know what to give to my child?

A real-life father

I know a wealthy father who has two sons – one who is faithful to the Lord and toward his dad, and another who is more like the prodigal son in Jesus’ story. Yet, this father is gradually giving both of his sons their inheritance now.

I don’t know all of the reasons why, but in getting to know the family over the past three years, I suspect one reason for the dad’s giving now is to gently influence. He knows his wealth can either be a burden or a blessing, so he’s allowing his sons to learn how to manage resources while he is still around to help guide them.

Mistakes will be made, but a wise dad knows this. He understands he has more influence this side of the grave than the other. Giving to children is God’s will, but “how” is something the Lord leaves fairly open. “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,” Proverbs 13:22 says. But parents are given a good deal of flexibility with the timing and modes of giving.

The generous father

In Jesus’ story of this generous father, the loving dad agrees to his son’s request for his inheritance. Maybe the son felt entitled. (The other one sure did later in the story.) But this dad wasn’t fazed. He sensed a larger life lesson looming, so he wisely included the other son in his pre-death disbursements too (verse 12).

I imagine his estate attorney was worked up. “Wait! Wait! Remember what we talked about! You said that on your death bed we would set up trusts for each son to have access to his inheritance over incremental age targets.

But the wise dad knew the son needed to learn humility, and he knew failure could facilitate healthy conversations. He also knew that need might make his son listen more closely. Humility can replace greed and rebellion. And by offering generosity and security to his son when he finally returned, the father could win his heart. And that is exactly what happened.

Those who fear the Lord are secure; he will be a refuge for their children.

– Proverbs 14:26 (NLT)

What about an earthly inheritance?

Yes, parents are responsible to save for their children, and even their grandchildren (Proverbs 13:22). In addition, the Bible instructs on the wisdom of appointing timeframes and guides to mentor a child. In these ways (and others) parents plan for an inheritance that will enhance their child’s love for the Lord and help them build a life that honors him.

Discerning parents will pray and plan. They will seek out and learn from others who have experienced the process of helping facilitate a godly legacy, in the hope that they, too, will bear fruit in the lives of their children and grandchildren, even beyond their own lifetime.

Your gifts

What essential gifts does your child need from you? The gift of your presence? The gift of your wisdom?

Perhaps you need to make a safe space for your child to be known and to know you, or you need to be vulnerable about your own fears and failures. Maybe you need to be faster to forgive or more fun to be with. Or you might need to model the gift of your wisdom as you live out the financial best practices of saving and spending. You might decide to discuss the Lord’s view on money and your views on stewardship.

You might choose to strategically invest money in experiences to grow relational equity. And, most importantly, you can use your money to demonstrate your care for God’s kingdom – locally and globally – spreading the gospel and compassionately meeting humans needs. The best gift you give to your child is a spiritual inheritance: to love Jesus and wisely store up treasure in heaven.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please show us your very best for our children. Equip us to facilitate a process for them to discover your heart, through Christ’s love, in Jesus’ name.

Related Reading: Luke 12:13-21, Proverbs 13:22, 2 Corinthians 12:14, Galatians 4:2

Question: What should you give your child in order to build a spiritual inheritance?

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