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What does the Bible say about parents leaving an inheritance for their children?

Bible inheritance

Question: "What does the Bible say about parents leaving an inheritance for their children?"

Answer:
Inheritance was the gift of honor and support given by a patriarch to his sons (and sometimes daughters). It was meant for the provision and status of the family. Most of the occurrences of inheritance in the first half of the Old Testament refer to God bestowing the Promised Land on the Israelites—the Heavenly Father providing for His sons and daughters. Because the land was given by God to the individual families, the people were not allowed to dispose of their land permanently. If they needed to sell it, it was to be returned during the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:23-38). The Bible laid out specific guidelines for inheriting family property: the eldest son was to inherit a double portion (Deuteronomy 21:15-17); if there were no sons, daughters were allowed to inherit their father's land (Numbers 27:8); in the absence of direct heirs, a favored servant or a more distant kinsman could inherit the land (Genesis 15:2; Numbers 27:9-11). At no time could the land pass to another tribe. The point of passing on the land was to ensure the extended family had a means of support and survival. Inheritance was assumed, and only Proverbs 13:22 speaks of it as a particular virtue.

The New Testament does not speak of a physical inheritance but rather a spiritual inheritance. In fact, in Luke 12:13-21, Jesus downplays the importance of an earthly inheritance, explaining that it can lead to greed and an obsession with wealth. It is far better to store up treasures in heaven. Our inheritance, like the Israelites’, is from God (Acts 20:32; Ephesians 1:11, 14, 18). And, like Abraham (Hebrews 11:8, 13), we will not receive our inheritance in this lifetime (1 Peter 1:4). What is this inheritance? Psalm 37:11 and Matthew 5:5 say it’s the whole earth. James 2:5 says it’s the kingdom of God, and Hebrews 11:16 calls it a heavenly country. First Corinthians 2:9 says it is so wonderful, that "eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him." And Revelation 21 describes a new heaven and new earth where God will dwell among His people and take away tears, mourning, pain, and death.

As believers, we are not bound to the Old Testament Law. Instead, we are to follow the two greatest commandments—love God and love others (Matthew 22:34-36). The Old Testament offers practical examples as to how to fulfill the greatest commandments. In regards to inheritance, it's the example of parents ensuring their family is cared for after their death. In modern times, this doesn't necessarily mean land, or even material possessions. It can include imparting a good character, ensuring children have an education, or training them in a profession. But, when most people think of parents leaving an inheritance for their children, it is in regards to material possessions. The Bible definitely supports the idea of parents leaving their material possessions/wealth/property to their children. At the same time, parents should not feel obligated to save up everything for their children’s inheritance, neglecting themselves in the process. It should never be a matter of guilt or obligation. Rather, it should be an act of love, a final way of expressing your love and appreciation to children. Most important, however, is the parents’ responsibility to make sure children are aware of the inheritance they will receive if they follow Christ. Parents are to teach their children about God's expectations (Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Ephesians 6:4) and bring their children to Christ (Mark 10:14). In this way, parents can provide for their children in the greatest way possible.

Recommended Resources: What The Bible Says About Parenting by John MacArthur and Logos Bible Software.

While he is not the author of every article on GotQuestions.org, for citation purposes, you may reference our CEO, S. Michael Houdmann.


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What does the Bible say about aging/growing old?

What does the Bible say about Christian fathers?

What does the Bible say about being a Christian mother?

What does the Bible say about family?

What does it mean to train up a child in the way he should go?



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What does the Bible say about parents leaving an inheritance for their children?