How will your donors distribute their estates? What is the likely destination for the trillions of dollars in excess wealth that God has entrusted to His people in our generation?

As a financial advisor, I am blessed to be able to counsel Christian families on both their day-to-day money management and their wealth transfer strategies at death. By far, the most common estate distribution plan I’ve observed over the years is for Christian parents to divide the estate equally between their children—usually without regard to the heirs’ spiritual commitment, their financial need or responsibility, or the size of the estate.

So, it was no surprise that, when I met with a gentleman who served with me on a ministry board to discuss his estate, his wealth (of $10 million) was to be divided equally among his two daughters upon his death. Sadly, I discovered that his wife had been in declining health, with very little time left to live. Learning of her mother’s illness, the first daughter moved back in with her parents so that her own children could come to know their grandmother. This daughter and her family seemed to have a heart for pleasing God, walking with the Lord, and loving her parents.

The second daughter, on the other hand, had long ago rejected both her parents and their Christian faith. Her contact with her mom and dad had been sporadic at best and was typically accompanied by a request for money, either to bail her out of debt (again) or allow her to continue pursuing a highly consumptive lifestyle. After they made the decision to stop financing this pattern of irresponsibility, their daughter made the decision to cut off any further contact. Even after hearing of her mom’s terminal illness, she refused to have any further contact with her parents, still angry over her last request for money being denied.

It was this last detail that caught my attention. If the inheritance was to be equally divided between the two daughters, what was the likely outcome? Could God possibly have intended for this financial blessing – particularly the $5 million earmarked for the second daughter – to be passed down and likely squandered by an adult child who has rejected Christ, lives a financially irresponsible and consumptive lifestyle, and has no interest in continuing her parents’ legacy of faithful stewardship and generosity?

This family’s story stirred my heart. It caused me to search the Scriptures for God’s wisdom on the estate planning and wealth transfer process. I wanted to know:

  • In a society driven by equality and fairness, is inequality ever acceptable?
  • If so, are there characteristics in the children that should be considered when determining how much each child should receive?
  • Should an inheritance come with terms and conditions? At what point, if any, should a child be “cut off” from an inheritance?
  • Should children be able to make requests about which assets are handed down to them?
  • Are there specific biblical principles that address these questions?

Why does any of this matter? Quite simply, it matters because how Christians, specifically evangelical Christians, transfer their wealth has a direct impact on the kingdom work. It matters because we currently have an unprecedented amount of wealth transfer at stake between now and the year 2061 – to the tune of $5 trillion!

Is the reason that God has entrusted trillions of excess dollars into the hands of His people so that we can contribute to the Great Commission? According to my research, it is actually possible for us to see His work completed in our generation! But are we, in fact, investing in His kingdom with His resources? Or are we indiscriminately passing it down to the next generation without regard for the impact it could have on kingdom work?

For the answers to these and other questions, click here for a replay of Jim’s webinar, “Inheritance: A Biblical Perspective.”