You’ve probably heard about stories of rich millionaires, even billionaires, who take a “bombshell” wife that’s fifty or sixty years younger. It isn’t long before he dies and his new will leaves everything to the new wife. The kids who had been expecting a big windfall are left with nothing, or next to it. That’s when the lawsuits begin. Family members who had great expectations fight to make sure that they get their share. Things get ugly. I don’t know if there is anything worse than family arguments; and the worst kinds of arguments are those over inheritances. When the “glue” that held a family together dies, family relationships are cast by the wayside as each person hopes for their pot of gold.
That’s a funny thing about wills. Even though they are made by the person who died to express their wishes, for the most part, everyone who doesn’t get what they want tries to find loopholes they can exploit to break the will. Things were pretty cut and dried in Jesus’ day. The eldest boy would get a larger portion of the inheritance because he was the one who would keep the family going. The older son had a legitimate beef with the younger son in the story of the prodigal son: the younger son’s actions hurt the older son’s inheritance. It was in the midst of teaching one day that a man yelled out to Jesus, “Hey, make my brother share the inheritance with me.” After rebuking the man, Jesus reminded people that “stuff” is not good enough. “Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’” (Luke 12:15)
The request of Jesus seems like a fair one. “Make him share equally.” The request, however, could have upset the culture if Jesus had granted it. I think it’s safe to say that this man was not the older brother – unless he had been disinherited. So, this other brother was asking Jesus to go against the Law that regulated inheritances. It was a request to get more stuff by taking it from the eldest brother. In those days, it was also a request that would see a rise in social status for the younger brother. Wealth did that back then. It’s a good thing that doesn’t happen today. Then again…. The response of Jesus reminded those listening that piling up a lot of wealth isn’t what makes you really happy. You can’t take it with you, which should have been obvious from the situation. The key to a fulfilled life is not having more toys that need to be distributed upon your death; the key is being rich in our relationship with God.
We have a hard time understanding that concept of being rich towards God. Some preachers make a point of talking about having great wealth, but they stop short of mentioning that true wealth comes from our relationship with God. We become rich in our relationship with God when we realize that all the stuff we may have accumulated is unimportant – unless we can use it to show God’s love to others. We become rich in our relationship with God when we don’t complicate the relationship with lots of stuff. Ask yourself how God is blessing you. If your answer consists of things like a house, a cool car, a boat – maybe even a great yacht, or things like that: you’ve missed the boat when it comes to godly wealth. If your answer focuses on relationships, people, family, insights from God, and other such things, then you understand what true wealth is. It’s a cliché, but it’s very true that when people ask how much someone left after they died the answer is “all of it.” Do you want to leave mere stuff for others or do you want to leave a legacy that includes being rich in your relationship with God?
Oh Lord, it would be nice to be able to leave some wealth to my children when I die. Even more important is that I leave a legacy of richness towards You. Let me live so that part of my legacy need never be divided, but will multiply for all I know while I am alive and after I’m gone.