“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).
This is NOT talking about skipping generations, leaving your children out of your inheritance, and giving it all to your grandchildren. Some of you grandparents like to spoil your grandchildren by giving them all kinds of things you would have never given your children when they were growing up. You know who you are. Their parents say, “You never gave ME stuff like that when I was little!” Well, I have bad news for you — you can’t use this verse to silence your kids, you’ll have to find another one. 🙂
There is, however, a reason this mentions “children’s children”. A “good man” so orders his life that his grandchildren will receive an inheritance, even without passing it to them directly — because a good man influences his children so that they also will pass on an inheritance. As I mentioned in the last post, the principle of stewardship is closely related to inheritance. A good man teaches his children to be stewards with a view towards generations to come.
This is a principle we see elsewhere in Scripture. Note first Deuteronomy 4:9-10:
Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons; Specially the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.
Here we see the responsibility to pass down, to succeeding generations, the knowledge of the Lord and His Word. The same is taught in Psalm 78:5-7:
For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:
Here the emphasis is not only to teach children and children’s children about the Lord, but to teach them to teach the coming generations as well. A pattern is to be established which will carry through the generations.
Clearly, this is the most important inheritance we can pass on to our grandchildren — to teach our children the things of the Lord, to know, love, and honour Him, and to teach them that they also need to teach their children these things. As we apply love and obedience to the Lord in our lives, and teach our children to do the same, this will broaden the inheritance that we pass on and which they in turn pass on to our grandchildren. Some examples:
- If we live out our love for the Lord in diligence in our work, we will have greater financial resources to pass on than if we were lazy. As our children follow that example, they also will have greater resources.
- If we are faithful and loving towards our spouses, we will pass on many things: emotional stability, a guiding example for marriage, etc.
- If we discipline consistently and lovingly, we help equip and prepare our children to train their own children in a way that will make our children more effective parents.
- If we model the Biblical pattern of being willing to make commitments, and faithfulness in keeping those commitments, we teach our children, and eventually our grandchildren, to be those who faithfully carry through.
- If we show by our lives that we love wisdom, and we teach our children the value of wisdom, we pass on to our children, and through them to our grandchildren, the truth that God’s wisdom is far above rubies.
There are many other examples. Everything you do, even if you don’t have children yet, is establishing patterns that will affect the inheritance you pass on to your children and your grandchildren. If you want your children to follow in your vices, carry on, counting on them to probably pass those vices on to your grandchildren as well. If you want your children to plug into a good church, get yourself involved and be faithful. If you want them (and your grandchildren) to struggle with poverty, you can be a lazy or dishonest employee, or just quit and go on the dole — you’ll be doing your best to bring poverty to your descendants. If you want them to be patient, be patient. If you prefer that they be angry, give yourself over to anger.
There is no guarantee that your children (and grandchildren) will follow your good examples, and there is hope that they will reject your bad examples. You do not have the power to determine their character. You will, however, be a major influence in the life patterns they form, patterns which will either help them as they learn to follow the Lord, or patterns which will hinder them, and which they must fight against.
I was just speaking to one of my aunts, and she said, “In our family, we stay married.” She wasn’t boasting, she was stating fact, from the experience of 62 years of marriage — and that is a pattern that we see through the generations, from my grandparents (and their siblings) on. Divorce has hardly happened at all in our broader family, never lightly, and has been painful for all when it happened. The pattern was set — the Gleasons (and Harpers) planned (and still plan) on marrying once, for life. I remember more than one 50th anniversary celebration when I was growing up, and there have been quite a few 60 year anniversaries down through the years as well. That is something a child remembers — I received a great inheritance from my extended family.
A good man leaves an inheritance, not just to his children, but to his grandchildren. What will we leave to the generations to come? Are we establishing good patterns, so that we can, as good men and women, leave a good inheritance to them, or are we destroying their inheritance with the rubbish with which we are filling our own lives? You will leave some kind of inheritance, one way or another. It’s only a question of what it will be.