"A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous."
Some of you might remember a story that was reported in the news a few years back. You might have heard about the millionaire woman who died. When her children gathered for the reading of her will, they most likely were anxiously awaiting to see how the funds would be distributed among them. To their chagrin, they found that the woman bequeathed all her money to her dog.
We will all agree that that’s the most screwed up thing that we’ve probably ever heard of. (You are all probably wondering how the dog spent the money too.) But it is simply symptomatic of the deeper problem facing our culture today.
We are living in a time where we are seeing the disintegration of the family. Moreover, we live in a culture that hates children. It hates having children and it hates raising children. And, like that millionaire woman, it could care less about the children after they are gone.
This is why it is important to address the issue spoken of in this proverb. This morning we are going to be thinking about leaving an inheritance. You might think that this is somewhat of a boring subject. Or, if you are still young, it is something you might think is way too far in the future to even begin to think about. But as I studied this week, I found that it is a subject that Christians really need to examine. That’s because it deals with one of the most fundamental issues that we deal with: our families—particularly it deals with the next generation of families.
We’ve all heard the command, “Honor your father and your mother.” But we must also remember that the flip side of the command is that father’s and mothers need to honor their children and their grandchildren.
To an extent we do that. We talk a lot about raising our children and how we are to value them when they are young. But our discussions should not be limited to the first 18-20 years of their lives. Our vision for honoring our children needs to extend throughout our lives. Or, more accurately, it needs to extend throughout their lives. God says here that a good man—a righteous man, a godly man, is going to leave an inheritance to his children’s children.
Here is a man who has a vision not just for himself, but for his whole family. He’s not just planning out his own life. He is planning out the continuing effects of his life throughout the succeeding generations of his family after he is gone. And the way he impacts them is by leaving an inheritance.
That is what we are called to do. We are called to look to the future. We are to look to how we can begin to create a dynasty in the following generations. And the main way we do that is by the inheritance we leave our children and grandchildren.
As we consider this whole issue of leaving an inheritance, perhaps we should begin by checking our priorities.
I. Priorities in leaving an inheritance
In other words, when it comes to this inheritance that we are to leave, we should prioritize what are our main concerns. Some things should take priority when we are plotting the legacy we will leave. And certainly our chief concern ought to be, what I call, the faith of our fathers.
A. Faith of our fathers
Our main concern ought not to be the assets we bequeath to our children. Our main concern ought not to be the material things our children will inherit. It needs to be that they will receive an inheritance kept in heaven, that will never spoil or fade.
In other words, we should want our children receive a solid training in the faith. That will be their greatest inheritance. If they inherit our faith, but never receive a penny from us, they will have received something far more valuable. They will have inherited a great salvation, and a place in glory.
We would be doing a great injustice to our children if we neglected this. We could leave them tens of thousands of dollars, lots of land, and a great deal of material goods. But if we but never passed on anything of eternal worth, it all would be meaningless.
We have a lot of parents out there who are working themselves silly to make a lot of money. They even do it in the name of their kids. But it would be more worth while if we had parents who worked less, made less money, but invested themselves in their children and their children’s spiritual welfare. Because that is what is of chief importance when it comes to leaving an inheritance. A dynasty of dollars fails to compare to a dynasty of godliness.
You will remember that is how George Mueller died. He died with just a few hundred dollars on hand. But he had bequeathed to his family, and more than 10,000 orphaned children, a happy home in heaven.
And that should be our aim. Our highest priority ought to be the faith of our fathers. And right behind that is the priority of our children’s temporal welfare.
B. Welfare of our children
In saying all this, I don’t want us to neglect our children’s earthly wellbeing. The good man in this proverb certainly does not separate the spiritual inheritance from the physical inheritance. His love is a love that encompasses not just their eternal welfare but their physical wellbeing too. He wants them not just to be in heaven. But he wants them to be successful in this world too. He wants them to prosper while they live even more than he did.
You’ve all heard how your grandfather had to walk up the hill, both ways in the snow without a lunch pail to get to school. And your grand-father worked hard in his life so that your father could have a lunch pail when he went to school. And your father worked hard so that you didn’t have to walk up the hill both ways.
And that should be our aim too. We should want our children to have it better than we did. We should want them to have opportunities that we did not have. We want them to enjoy more of the world’s comforts. We want them to be able to advance in life, beyond where we did.
And don’t think this is just so they can have a life of ease and be able to go on huge spending sprees. Not at all. We want them to be able to be more liberal with their money than we were able to be too. Our giving to them then allows them to be able to be more generous towards the needy.
And you see in that how we are not just focused on our children’s welfare, but we are focused on the others’ welfare too! Ultimately this is the welfare of the church!
When we leave an inheritance we focus not just on the faith of our fathers and the welfare of our children. We also focus on the kingdom of our God.
C. Kingdom of our God
One of our highest priorities in leaving an inheritance is so that we can further the glory of God. When we pass on that spiritual inheritance to our children, combined with the wealth that we have accumulated, we have a chance to strengthen and further the ministry of the gospel
Just think how much wealth could be accumulated in just a few generations? Just think how our children and our grandchildren, could impact the world for Christ! Just think of the missionaries that could be supported. Think of the churches that could be built. Think of the souls that could be affected!
I heard this week that the Arabs over in places like Abudabi are now inviting missionaries to come over and teach the people there the Bible. Can you believe that? Muslim people are inviting Christians to come and teach them about the Lord! I don’t know if that is true or not, but let’s assume for a second that it was. Think about the opportunity! But the thing is, Abudabi is not a cheap place to live. The cost of living is exorbitant. Most missionaries couldn’t afford to live there, unless they were well backed.
But if Christians took seriously the call of God to lay up and inheritance to their children’s children, the call of God could easily be met. And one of the hardest places in the world to reach with the gospel, could begin to be infiltrated!
As Christians, we have three priorities: our faith, our family, our Lord’s kingdom. These are the things that matter most to us. These are the things that are to set the stage for how we live and how we die. And if we keep them as our main priorities will help us to leave a good heritage when it comes time for us to pass away.
But when it comes to leaving an inheritance to our children’s children, we need to remember that there are obstacles out there. There are some barriers that we must overcome if we are going fulfill this calling. I entitle this next point the enemies to leaving an inheritance because these are things that can hinder or obstruct the dynasty we should be seeking to build.
II. Enemies to leaving an inheritance
And I want to address them so that you are aware of them. The first of these enemies is the hedonism that pervades our culture.
A. Hedonism: “Die Broke”
Someone who is a hedonist is someone who has made the pursuit of pleasure his main goal in life. And this is rampant in our culture, and you can see it in a variety of ways.
You’ve all probably seen the old man driving down the street in a sporty convertible with a bumper sticker that says, “I’m spending my child’s inheritance.” That’s the idea that I’m talking about.
That is not just a silly bumper sticker either. That is a moto that many live by. They don’t have a concern for their children. They don’t have a concern for the future—mainly because they don’t believe they have a future. So many people make it their goal in life to die broke. The cry of our day is, “Eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
And the world is oriented towards this philosophy. We even have financial consultants who will help you attain this goal. You can go and consult a broker who will organize your profile so that you can retire early and spend the latter days of your life hitting cruise liners and traveling the world. They will actually help you die broke.
I don’t know if you are familiar with this or not, but there is a new thing out there called reverse mortgages. People who have retired can now have banks buy back their houses through regular installments. It is just like a mortgage payment, but instead of you paying the bank, the bank pays you. You live in the house until the last payment is made. (And hopefully you die before you have to move out!).
But do you see how hedonistic that is? They are thinking of no one but themselves and their own selfish desires. This pleasure driven, self seeking mentality pervades our culture and the business world now even has accommodated itself to this wicked worldview.
I understand that you might not be looking into a reverse mortgage, or planning to retire early. But beware of the tendency to splurge. Beware of the temptation to use up your money by wastefulness or by living it up. This is a terrible way to rob your children of the honor that you ought to be bestowing upon them when you are gone.
I could spend a lot of time on this, but for the sake of time I have to move on. Let it be enough to say right now that you need to be aware of how you use your money now: One of the enemies to our inheritance leaving is the hedonism that pervades our culture.
Another adversary that we should recognize is the socialism that pervades our government.
B. Socialism: The Death Tax
By this I refer to what is commonly called the death tax. Our government is a continually growing monster. With all the socialized programs and new agencies that it is producing it has become a behemoth of a thing. And in order to run all those programs it has to find ways to fund them. And one of the ways it does is by sucking funds from it’s citizens who die. It is not enough for them to tax us at every turn when we are alive, but they have to get us after we are gone too!
And it is a double dip for them! They tax the income we receive and everything we purchase. But then, after we’ve done our best to accumulate a substantive amount of wealth and assets, they dip into it again after we have passed on!
And they are not shy about how much they take. If when you die your estate adds up to $500,000, the government will take 1/3rd of that in federal taxes alone. That is not even including what the state may take on top of that!
What is so terrible about the death tax though is that it diminishes the wealth that rightfully belongs to one’s family. It obscures the ability of a family to progress and grow in society. And it does so all in the name of giving it to people who have absolutely no relation or right to the money.
There are ways to avoid the death tax to some degree. You cannot avoid it completely, but there are some ways to do that. One of which is giving your inheritance to your children before you die, rather than waiting until after you pass. This helps alleviate it to some degree.
But let it be enough for you to know now that a death tax does exist and it is evil. And, if you are serious about leaving an inheritance to your decendancts, you may want to consult a professional who can help you get around it the best you can. The death tax is an enemy to our families and a foe to the generations that follow us.
So we have hedonism in our culture and socialism in our government. I believe there is one more enemy that we should address. That is the dispensationalism that is prevalent in our churches.
C. Dispensationalism: Rapture Theory
Many Christians today hold a view of the end times that is detrimental to the following generations. And this belief is incredibly popular. As a matter of fact, there was a series of 12 best selling books that was based on the belief. What I am talking about is the belief of the secret rapture. It is the belief that in the end times all the Christians living on earth will be whisked away by Jesus. While we are all in heaven, things on earth are all going to go to hell in a handbasket.
This belief gets this verse all turned on its head. Many people who take this view that we are all going to be suddenly taken up into heaven then think that you have to spend what you have while you have it. If you lay it up for the next generation, then it might fall into the hands of some wicked person. If you and your family are gone, then your bank account is going to be inherited by some wicked person who is going to spend it on his own delights. So the conclusion is: You should use up everything while you are still here.
I cannot go into a full refutation of this doctrine. That is not the purpose of this message. I just want you to be aware that the Bible does not teach a secret rapture. Everywhere the end times are talked about (if you look at it in context) you see that when Christ comes again it will be a very public event. It will be a very decisive event at the end of history. And we have no reason to be spending our children’s inheritance.
This belief system, if taken to its conclusion—as many people in our day have—is an enemy to the command to honor our children. It is just as detrimental as the hedonism or socialism that is around us in the world. Perhaps though it is more damaging as it is something that lurks in the church under the mask of Biblical Christianity.
God does call us to be looking for Christ’s return. We are to be living in light of his return. But that means we are to be obeying the command to honor our children and grandchildren. We are to be building our families and his kingdom by the inheritance that we leave them.
You might be thinking, “Well, this is quite a job!” And you might be inclined to get a little stressed about it. Well, be at ease. God does help us with this job.
III. Help with leaving an inheritance
The second half of our proverb does mention the assistance God gives us in building our wealth. It says, “the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous.” In other words, God’s judgment upon the sinner not only consists in stripping the sinner of all that he has, but he take that wealth and gives it to his people.
I like the way this is phrased too. The wealth is “laid up” for the righteous. In other words, the unbeliever’s pocketbook is like a bank account for godly people. You know how you put your money in the bank. You lay it up for the future. But the Lord has the ungodly person’s money “laid up” for the righteous. His fortunes are going to be our fortunes.
You might even here a hint of the kind of justice the sinner experiences. Perhaps the sinner here is one who has been diligently saving his money all his life. He has been laying it up. But before he can enjoy it, he dies. All his wealth then is distributed to the righteous.
You can kind of hear the story Jesus told about the man who had a great increase in his crops. He decided that he would build bigger barns to store it up in and then live the rest of his life in ease. He was just going to ignore God’s call to work and begin to be lazy and live it up.
But that night God came to him and said, “This night your life will be demanded of you.” So all his wealth that he had accumulated was left, and we are left to wonder who got it.
Certainly this serves as a warning to those who have not turned to God. If you are one who is a sinner and is not living by faith in Jesus Christ nad his word, then you should beware of the consequences.
But this is a word to those of us who are Christians—those of us who have heeded the call to follow Christ. God will assist us in life. He will reward our righteousness and even reward it in monetary ways. And that which we accumulate from God, can then be taken and invested back to God and his kingdom.
As Jesus says elsewhere—in the parable of the talents, “to him who has, more will be given.”
I would assume that most of us have not thought much about the inheritance that we are going to leave. But I hope that this message does begin to change that. I hope that you see that God does call us to honor our children, not just while they are young and under our direct care in our house. But he wants us to be thinking how we can leave a legacy of godliness for them and the many generations after them. That legacy begins with the work we take up tomorrow and the life that we live right now.
And who knows, the Lord might bless our efforts. And when all the peoples of earth are gathered before him. And when all the clans of earth present themselves before God, there will be a great family reunion for you. Maybe you will not have left much, but perhaps what you did leave will have been significantly blessed of the Lord. And perhaps many of those children will come to you and thank you for fulfilling your calling in this regard.
“By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.”
Proverbs 13:10 (ESV)
(click here for the audio version of this sermon)
In the book The 19th Hole Golf immortal Arnold Palmer recalls a lesson about overconfidence:
"It was the final hole of the 1961 Masters tournament, and I had a one-stroke lead and had just hit a very satisfying tee shot. I felt I was in pretty good shape. As I approached my ball, I saw an old friend standing at the edge of the gallery. He motioned me over, stuck out his hand and said, “Congratulations.” I took his hand and shook it, but as soon as I did, I knew I had lost my focus. On my next two shots, I hit the ball into a sand trap, then put it over the edge of the green. I missed a putt and lost the Masters."
The lesson Palmer learned that day was the lesson of pride. When he shook that hand he became arrogant. And once the pride had seeped in it poisoned his concentration and made him lose the trophy that he so diligently sought.
All of us must learn that lesson too. All of us must come to understand that pride is a poison that is more lethal than any snake bite or anything one might receive by way of a needle’s injection.
Our proverb for this morning certainly makes that clear. Our proverb makes it clear that pride is a fatal toxin. For once it seeps into your system it has the ability to poison both your relationships and your mind.
Our proverb starts out by talking about how pride poisons our relationships.
I. Pride poisons your relationships
Our passage starts by saying, “By insolence (i.e. by pride) comes nothing but strife.”
In other words, it is saying that pride is an irritant. It is by its nature, is an aggravator. It takes what could otherwise be a peaceful and enjoyable relationship and frustrates it.
You see, the thing about pride is that it is focused only one the self and one’s preeminence. And if the only thing that matters in the world is you, then you will become an annoyance to everyone else in the world.
When I was young we used to play a game called, “King of the Mountain.” And that was one of the most contentious games I ever played. Even more than football. You may know what I’m talking about already. In King of the Mountain, everyone starts out at the bottom of a hill or snow pile. When you say go, everyone scrambles to the top of a hill. The one who gets there first tries to push everyone else down so he can be king of the mountain. So there is constant friction. One person comes from one direction and you have to push him down. Someone else comes from a different direction, and you have to push him down (or else be knocked off).
That is what this proverb is talking about. If you are full of pride, then you are going to want to be king of the mountain. So you are going to try to push everyone else down. And there is going to be constant fighting going on because you have to stay at the top. You have to look good. You cannot bear to be the one who is not the winner of the argument, the victor or the one to whom everyone else looks up.
You might remember that this was one of the first lessons of history. Pride poisoned some of the most glorious relationships that ever existed: The relationships that existed among the angels in heaven.
Think about Satan. What was his sin? It was pride! He was the most beautiful of all the angels. He was also the highest ranking angel. The only one above him was God himself. But then he became proud. He wanted to be the “King of Heaven.” He wanted pre-eminence over God and did not want to be subject to Him. And his pride caused nothing but strife. He bucked against God and God bucked back. As a result heaven was divided. Satan was cast down from heaven and so were a third of the angels who had allied themselves with Satan.
That same episode occurs here on earth among us, wherever pride manifests itself. Wherever you find pride, you are going to find people butting heads.
That’s true in marriages isn’t it? Why do married couples bicker so much? Why is the divorce rate in our nation so high? It is because of pride. Men are too proud to say to their wives, “You know, honey. I did was wrong, will you forgive me?” Women are not humble enough to pray for their husbands! The poison of those relationships is pride.
The same is true in the church. The Corinthian church is one example of this. There were a lot of things wrong in the Corinthian church, weren’t there? But what was their real problem? What was the root of all their woes? It was pride! Their fundamental issue was their arrogance.
You could look at almost every issue in that church and attribute it to pride. There was strife over who to follow (Paul or Apolos). There was strife over the gift of tongues. There was strife regarding the Lord’s Table. There was strife over what to eat and where to eat. Why? Because they were full of pride! They were only concerned about themselves—how they looked, about how they felt—and that’s pride!
That’s why Paul says in the famous Love chapter, “Love is not arrogant. It does not boast. It is not rude. It does not insist on its own way.” Pride cannot bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, or endure all things. Pride cannot be patient or kind because it is the incubator of anger, hate and division.
All those things Paul talked about lead to peaceable relationships. Love considers others first and seeks to promote other’s welfare. Love produces a harmonious atmosphere—like that of heaven.
Pride cannot do that. There cannot be peace where there is pride. That’s because pride poisons relationships. It pits people against one another. It creates a hellish environment where there is constant friction and arguing.
You know why that is? Because there can only be one God. Really, that’s the poison of pride. You are trying to become like God. This is why homes are broken and churches are destroyed. Because people have not humbled themselves before God. And since that relationship is distorted, all other relationships are going to be broken as well.
When God is at the center of your life, the God who is Love, will help you to be loving. But when you are at the center of your life, you will be all that matters in life. As a result you will not be able to admit that your wrong, or be willing to be thought of as wrong. You will not be willing to be misunderstood or let themselves be wronged. That’s because a prideful person has to be king of the mountain and he has to beat every one else into submission!
I want you all to be aware of pride. Do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought. Otherwise you are going to be riddled with strife. Pride produces rivalries in relationships.
But don’t think it stops there. Pride poisons more than just your relationships. It also poisons your mind.
II. Pride poisons your mind
The second half of our proverb says, “With the well-advised there is wisdom.” Do you hear how that? Do you hear how the prideful person is poisoned?
This is saying that someone who is humble is going to be willing to listen to other people. A humble person knows that he does not know it all. And he knows that God speaks through various instruments. Ministers, parents, friends, fellow believers and the Bible. These are all God’s mouth-pieces. And the wise man considers these to be resources of knowledge and he is willing to weigh what they have to say. As a result his knowledge is ever expanding. He is growing ins wisdom. His mind is increasing with knowledge and understanding.
But that’s not happening with a proud man. A proud person won’t listen to others. A proud man is a close minded man. He won’t listen to anyone. He already thinks he knows it all. He doesn’t think he needs people to give him any advice because he is the expert.
So what happens? His pride poisons his mind! Since he is so proud, he will not receive instruction. He ends up being none the wiser. His mind isn’t going grow. His understanding isn’t going to expand. If anything, it degenerates even further than it is. So he goes on acting like a fool.
It is interesting how Paul advises Titus regarding such people. Turn over to Titus 3. In Titus 3:10 Paul gives Titus some advice on how to administer church discipline. He says, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him.”
Do you see the pride in these people? If a person stirs up division in the church—isn’t that the initial sign of pride. That’s exactly what we just talked about. They are poisoning the relationships in the church. So Paul says, warn him once. Warn him twice. If he doesn’t listen to you, have nothing to do with him. In other words, excommunicate him. If he is so arrogant that he will not listen to your advice—and if he is so haughty that he will not submit to your authority—then cast him out of the church.
Paul goes on to say that such a person is “warped.” Have you ever seen a piece of wood that is warped? That means it is twisted or bent really funny and won’t lay straight.
That’s what a person who is prideful is like. He is twisted inside. His mind is perverted so badly that he cannot think straight.
And that is exactly what this proverb is getting at. A proud person doesn’t think right and will not be willing to have others tell him how to think. His mind has been poisoned with pride. Who knows what else might result if that happens?
Former President Richard Nixon was known as someone who typically gave and took a lot of advice. In his presidential campaign against John F. Kennedy however, he paid the price for not listening to the wise counsel of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Otto Friedrich in Time magazine wrote:
Eisenhower and others warned Nixon not to accept Kennedy’s challenge to a televised debate—Nixon was Vice President after all, and far better known that the junior Senator from Massachusetts—but Nixon took pride in his long experience as a debater. He also ignored advice to rest up before the debate and went on campaigning strenuously until the last minute. So, what a record 80 million Americans saw on their TV screens was a devastating contrast. Kenedy looked fresh, tanned and vibrant. Nixon looked unshaven, baggy-eyed, and surly.
Kennedy went on to win the election by a very slim margin. Most analyst say that if it had not been for the televised debate, Nixon would have won. If he only would have listened to those who had tried to counsel him he would have won. But it would not be so, because his mind had been poisoned by pride.
Young people, I want you to realize something. If you ever come to the point where you tell someone, “Get off my case” that can be a dangerous thing. Your mom or dad can nag. That might be true. But when someone comes up to you and has the courage to say, “Hey, I’ve seen that you… and I don’t think you should be doing that.” You can either hear what they have to say, or you can tell them to get lost. If you choose the latter, you may just have drunk the juice. You need to be aware that the poison of pride might already be in your veins. Your mind already may be affected with that devilish serum of arrogance. And you may well be on your way to reaping the effects of your pride.
All of us, of course, need to be on the lookout for this venomous vice. None of us are immune to it. You have to remember that Satan is the Great Snake, and he would like nothing more than to sink his teeth into any one of us. He, of all people in the world, knows the devastating effects of pride. And he would like nothing more than to have each one of us become just as puffed up as he is. He would like nothing more than to have our minds become numbed by our own selfish conceit. He loves it when our heads swell with pride. Because when that happens our ears close and the word of God is silenced. And he loves having us pitted against one another. Because if he can drive us further away from each other, he can drive us further away from God.
So beware of the poison of pride.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.