By Carl McMurray
Solomon said, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” (Prov. 13:22, NASV). Some might argue that wealth is the point of his proverb and the inheritance of these children, but I would like to suggest that there is something else that is passed on in a family lineage. There is an inheritance that we give to our children and our grandchildren that is far more important and satisfying than wealth. There is an inheritance that may have an effect on following generations that money and such like can never equal. In an “I want. . . ” world, that is guided by “yuppies” and stock market figures, the Christian must give consideration to what we are really leaving to our children and our children’s children.
Our heavenly Father has always been concerned with the next generation of his children. Joshua 4:5-6 illustrates the planning of proper remembrances for Israel’s children so that they would have a visual remembrance of God’s care among them. The great Passover feast that God instituted for Israel was instituted with due concern for passing it on to the next generation (Exod. 12:26-27). Part of God’s lawgiving and promise as Israel approached Canaan included not only Israel taking God’s law to heart, but their children and grandchildren doing it also. He instructed them on how it was to be accomplished in Deuteronomy 6:2-9. Don’t forget how the Jews were rebuked by Nehemiah because they had neglected the above instructions of God and their own children’s teaching until their children could not even speak the language of Judah (Neh. 13:23-25). The other side of the coin is Abraham in Genesis 18:19, who is commended by God because he “will command his children after him.” It must be evident that God is certainly concerned about what we are leaving to our children.
Have you noticed that righteousness and wickedness often run in family lines. There are exceptions of course where children choose their own path and separate themselves from their lineage. But such seem to be the exceptions rather than the rule. Most children seem inclined to accept the inheritance that their parents leave them. In Genesis we are presented with two main family lines. They are represented by Cain and Abel. One is remembered for murdering his brother while the other is declared a “righteous man” in Hebrews 11:4. Obviously the literal lineage of Abel does not proceed far since he was murdered, but Genesis 4:25 tells us that Seth was given in place of Abel. Notice the difference in the two families from that time forward : The decendants of Cain distinguished themselves in a variety of ways. One built a city while another is looked to as the “father of those ‘who dwell in tents and have livestock.” Another is noted as the “father of all’those who play the lyre and pipe.” One is remembered for his forging and metal-work while another is even a murderer like Cain. The last thing we might note about this family is that it came to an end at the flood. In earthly pursuits this family seems to have excelled and passed this trait down through the family. There is no mention however of their relationship with Jehovah. We are left to infer that they contributed to the increasing wickedness in the world leading to its ultimate destruction by water in that day.
In the family of Seth however, we see a different picture. There are no notations of great deeds or accomplishments. This lineage however does produce a godly man who “walks with God” for 300 years before being “taken,” not seeing death. This family passed enough respect for Jehovah down through their generations that when the entire world became corrupt, one son of Seth is described as “blameless in his time,” one who “walked with God.” But, Enoch and Noah are not the only spiritually noteworthy individuals in this family line. It is the family of Seth that was chosen for the lineage of Christ. The children of this family seem to have had a good inheritance indeed left to them.
There is another striking parallel of this family practice that is even plainer than these already mentioned. In 2 Chronicles 22:1-5 we have the account of Ahaziah, king of Judah. Ahaziah is noted for his one year reign and his wickedness. The Scriptures explain that he was counseled to do evil by his mother and the house of Ahab. Ahab is dead at this time but when we remember that his wife Jezebel still lives and her daughter, Athaliah, is the mother who counsels Ahaziah, then the picture becomes clear. By Scripture, a man is declared to be wicked because he has been counseled that way by an evil mother and an ungodly grandmother. Is this not exactly the opposite of another notable man whose past is described in 2 Timothy 1:5. In that passage Timothy is declared to be possessed of a sincere faith, while the credit is given to a faithful mother and grandmother. With no stock market to invest in, there still seems to have been quite an inheritance that was left to these men.
It should be plain to us. We can and do leave an inheritance for our children and our children’s children. We can give them true faith to be a foundation for their lives and generations following will profit from the gift. Or we, by our actions, can counsel them to do evil. As the bumper sticker says, we may be “spending our children’s inheritance. ” Dedication and faithfulness or Sunday morning Christianity, which do your children see? When the stock market closes and the T-bills are matured, when the insurance is all cashed in, what are we really leaving to our children? The Scriptures point out that it can go either way. Will your grandchildren be walking in the light? Are you doing anything to make it as sure an investment as you are able? Just exactly what are you leaving your children?
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 9, p. 271
May 5, 1988