“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).
Yesterday I posted about inheritance. I mentioned that the envy that is often seen in our society against inheritance is contrary to Scriptural principles and has no place in the thinking of believers. Just as a human inheritance is undeserved by the recipient and is a good gift of love from a father, so also those of us in Christ have a spiritual inheritance, a good gift of love from our heavenly Father.
Today, I’d like to look briefly at inheritance in context in Israel. The land was divided into roughly equal lots by population, with larger tribes getting more land, and then given to the people for an inheritance (Numbers 26:52-54; Joshua 13:7-8). Although it is evident that other wealth passed from fathers to sons, the most important part of the inheritance, and that which is mentioned over and over again in the Old Testament, is the land.
God instructed Moses (and Joshua) to give the land as an inheritance, but He always made it clear that the land was His. In the first part of Deuteronomy 10, where God gives instructions as to the inheritance of the tribe of Levi, He states this very clearly in verse 14 — the earth and everything in it is His.
The concept of inheritance, then, is closely connected with stewardship — caring for something that belongs to someone else. Perhaps one of the simplest examples of stewardship in our society is a bank. You put your money in a bank, and they may care for it, and invest it, but it still belongs to you, and you have the right to reclaim it when you choose. They are your “stewards”.
You are a steward; that which you have inherited ultimately belongs to God, and He has the right to tell you how to use it. He told the children of Israel to give a tithe to the support of the Levites (Numbers 18:26), and commanded other tithes and offerings as well. It was His land, and He had the right to tell them to leave the corners of the field and some of the grapes on their vines, so that the poor could come in and find food to sustain them (Leviticus 19:9-10). He could give such instructions because He is the LORD, and all belongs to Him — we are only stewards.
The concept of stewardship is implied by the very nature of inheritance, and emphasised in this proverb. The land was to be passed down to the children, and the children’s children. The land must be cared for, or your children and grandchildren would be harmed. Your inheritance is only yours for a time — a “good man” will ensure that it is passed down.
This strengthened the connection between generations, and we see a glimpse of that in Naboth’s response when Ahab tried to buy his inheritance in I Kings 21. It also helped to generate a long-term view. You wouldn’t pollute your land for short-term profit — your children might starve if you did.
An inheritance was a precious thing, something to be treasured and protected, even though it really didn’t belong to you. It was held in stewardship for your God and for your descendants, who would likewise hold it in stewardship.
We don’t have the same concept of stewardship ingrained in our culture and our thinking today, but that is a loss. That which we have isn’t really ours, it belongs to God. We should use our resources in keeping with His principles. If He tells us to give cheerfully, to be generous, we should follow what He says — it belongs to Him, after all. We should not squander it — it is His, and should be held in stewardship, and by God’s grace, should be passed on to others of His stewards.
Still more to come….
Update: part three