Dr. Paul J. Dean Christian Blog and Commentary

Inheritance and Work

Kids say the darndest things. “When Lynn Chen-Zhang’s older son was in third grade, he came home from school one day wondering why he bothered studying so hard: A classmate had told him that because he had wealthy parents, he’d be all taken care of in life. What was the use?” That question highlighted by The Atlantic raises eyebrows as well as issues. And, it raises the question of how much is too much inheritance?

The Goodness of Work

One of the things we need to teach our children is the goodness of work. God worked in creation and redemption, and He’s still working to accomplish His purposes. He commanded Adam and Eve to work prior to the fall, and He commands us to work as well. Work is not the result of the fall. It’s only the toil now associated with work that we experience post-fall. At the same time, by grace, work can be fulfilling and satisfying. Work makes us productive, and in some sense gives meaning to life. Work is good.

The Necessity of Work

The bible also teaches that work is necessary for survival, the fulfillment of the dominion mandate to subdue the earth, and the advancement of culture among other things. We’re warned against the perils of laziness, and we’re hit with the decree of God: a man that won’t work won’t eat (2 Thes. 3:10). We’re commanded to work.

We’re told not to worship money and that riches are fleeting. But we’re also told to save and prepare for the future. “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep— so shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man” (Prov. 6:6-11).

The Benefits of Work

God works through human work. Through work we have provision for ourselves and others. We serve others. We bless others. We can work, save, and give to those in need. We can support good causes and contribute to the overall well-being of our communities. Think of the benefits of work rooted in capitalism and sound economics including personal independence, liberty, economic prosperity both at a personal and societal level, as well as the cultural, architectural, and aesthetic pluses from work.

The Purpose of Work

God has given us work for grand and cosmic reasons. He’s also given it for practical reasons. He’s given us money, the payment for work, as a means of exchange. The gifts, talents, and resources He’s given us can benefit others in exchange for theirs benefitting us. That exchange comes in many forms including currency. Money in and of itself is not evil. It’s how we feel about money and what we do with it; it’s the love of money that’s a root of all kinds of evil, not money itself (1 Tim. 6:10).

To be sure, the health-wealth gospel is a false gospel. Among other things, it demeans the true and better spiritual and eternal blessings we have in Christ. It’s also rooted in greed: the love of money. At the same time, because work is good, because God has commanded us to subdue the earth, because we reflect His beauty in what we do, and because He cares for us and gives good gifts to us, bettering one’s lot in life is a good and worthy pursuit that puts His goodness and kindness on display. Ultimately, the purpose of work is to glorify God: to show forth what He’s like.

The Blessing of Work

So back to the story in the Atlantic. The question from their third grader “worried Chen-Zhang and her husband—who run a financial-advisory firm in Portage, Michigan—and prompted them to have a talk with their two boys about their financial future. They planned to pay for as much schooling as their kids wanted, but beyond that, Chen-Zhang told me, their message was, “You're on your own. And don’t expect any inheritance from us.”

Wow! Questions of love and the meaning of family are raised there. Aside from that, the bible tells us that a good mean leaves an inheritance to his children’s children (Prov. 13:22). How much inheritance is too much? I don’t know, but no inheritance is too little.

The truth is that we should bless our children. And think about this, the more we bless them with, the better they’ll be able to bless others and build on what we give them. Though there’s a larger point to the parable, I’m reminded of the parable of the talents. Whether God gives you one, two, or five, He wants you to multiply them (Matt. 25:14-30). Of course, that assumes we teach our kids what the bible says about work and money. Again, we’re to work, save, and give for the glory of God and the good of others. Rich people should work. We don’t work merely to amass money so that when we have enough, we quit. We work because God works.

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