Posted on by Heidi Brunsting

By Joe Sturniolo, Kardia Family Legacy & Estate Planning Services

For Christian parents facing the challenges of estate planning and how to leave assets to the children, inheritolatry is the commitment to leave significant financial resources to the next generation without regard to spiritual commitment, financial responsibility, or the size of the estate. Dividing an inheritance equally is “the American Way.” It suits our sense of fairness. But is it Biblical?

For adult children receiving assets from parents in estate planning, inheritolatry is the unhealthy fixation on fund and property to be inherited, often characterized by highly consumptive lifestyle and a sense of material entitlement. This materialism is also “the American Way.”

Whether this feels like your family or not, read on; I want to explain to you what God is calling us to with the massive transfer of wealth over the next 40 years and what He calls us to in determining how to give to our children. There are variables that should influence the decision of an appropriate inheritance that include the spiritual condition of the heir, their level of financial responsibility, and even the financial need of the heir.

It is time for American Evangelicals to consider Biblical wisdom in determining an appropriate inheritance.

First, it is important to understand how God is blessing this generation with wealth and why. Sixty-seven trillion dollars in inheritances in America will be transferred between now and 2061. The most recent studies reveal that 7% to 9% of the American population is Evangelical Christians. As a result, four to six trillion dollars will transfer from Evangelical Christians. Why is that significant to God?

As caretakers of God’s wealth, we need to understand his priorities. In the kingdom parables of Matthew 24-25, Jesus reveals his emphasis on stewardship: be wise and faithful servants, because the time frame to do so is limited. We are to live with a sense of kingdom urgency, aware that Jesus’ return is imminent, but the timing is God’s responsibility.

The task that God has given to us is to go into all the world, preach the Gospel, and make disciples. This could mean that every language or people group has God’s word in its own language and that there is a church or missions team in every people group. How much money is needed to finish this work? Wycliffe Bible Translators estimates that the cost of translating the Bible for all remaining 1,700 people groups is approximately $1 billion! The projected cost of sending missionary teams to finish the work globally is in the billions. If Evangelical Christians would merely give 10% of their wealth to the Kingdom mission at death, we would have more than enough resources to do all the work of the gospel. Imagine that!!

The problem with Evangelicals following this principle is that they have a misinformed view of how and what to give to the children at death. We know this from the declining generosity in churches and ministries. Donations to the churches and parachurches are on the course to drop by as much as 70% over the next 25-30 years!

The next generation has a distrust of the Bible and churches.

If all of that were true then why would parents today give equally to each child? Why are we as Christians following the false accepted principles of giving all that we have to our children beyond any taxes paid? Does that fit God’s plan for inheritance? Does God call us to give equally? What does God call us to?

Here are 4 Key Biblical Principles for Inheritance:

1. Unequal gifts to your children is not only permitted but necessary. Deuteronomy 21 shows the father giving double to the oldest. In Numbers 25:52-56 the size of the family becomes relevant. Larger families receive larger inheritances. In Numbers 27 only the sons received the land. The daughters received an inheritance only if marrying within their own clan. The daughters didn’t get an inheritance because it was assumed they would marry and their husband would have an inheritance.

What all of this means is that we are permitted to give unequal portions to each child based on family size, their commitment to Jesus and if they have special needs. For example, if you have a child that has Down Syndrome, you may need to give more for that child’s support. Or you have a child that is entering the ministry; their family may need more to support the family and to support their ministry.

2. Requests from heirs are acceptable and should be entertained by the parents. Numbers 32 The trans-Jordan tribe knew that part of their land was perfect for flocks and herds. The Reubenites and the Gadites requested that piece of land for that purpose and received it.

Caleb requested the land that Moses promised him in Joshua 14 and Deuteronomy 1:36. This could apply to parents who have land, vacation homes, family homes, and a family business. Have you considered the possibility of limitations with your children?

3. Limitations are prudent. Exodus 23:31 gives specific orders from God. How much of the world did God own at the time? All of it. How much of that land did God give to Israel? He gave a very small portion.

4. Responsibility is required. If you understand that God owns all that you have and all that you have made, it should follow that you have a very real responsibility to give it to the children that will honor God’s ownership.

In Leviticus 18:24-28 God says don’t repeat detestable practices or you will lose the land. In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus talks about the talents. You need to ask yourself what kind of responsibility should your children demonstrate.

$5 trillion of God’s money will change hands in the near future. How this money is given away and how it is used when given away is a privilege and enormous responsibility.

God has entrusted our generation of Christians with more money than will ever be needed to finish the work he has called us to do. Are we prepared to get this right? What happens if we get this wrong?


Download The Inheritolatry Workbook!
Use this workbook on inheritolatry based on a study group session by Kingdom Advisors as the beginning of a bigger conversation that you have with your spouse or with the Lord about where you and your heirs stand in light of the idolatry of giving or receiving an inheritance. This tool is to be used as a conversation starter that begins to open doors to greater levels of discussion about the decisions you make regarding inheritances in your family.


Source: Kingdom Advisors and Jim Wise

Joe Sturniolo believes that stronger families are the vehicle God uses to bring about significant impact for His Kingdom. Sturniolo is an educator, author and speaker with a bold goal to maximize the ability of high-capacity Christians and their families to model Jesus’ love through better stewardship and increase their impact for Kingdom causes. Kardia’s unique process helps Christians and their families eliminate estate and capital gains taxes, pass on an appropriate inheritance to their heirs, maximize their giving to worthy Christian charities, create healthier family relationships and leave a lasting family legacy to impact God’s Kingdom while maintaining their present lifestyle.

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