As I just entered my sixth decade of life (a less painful way of saying I’m in my 60’s), I find myself beginning to focus more on one particular thing that is looming in the not too distant future. You are probably thinking I’m referring to retirement, right? No, I’m actually talking about my inheritance. Hang with me, here. I’m not as selfish as it might seem!
According to an article published by CNN Money (December, 2013), American retirees can expect to receive an average of $177,000 as an inheritance. Whether that seems like a lot or a little, it actually ranks sixth highest of any country, with Australia topping the list at more than $500,000 per retiree. Additionally, 86% of retirees in India are expecting to leave an inheritance behind, while only 56% of U.S retirees plan on passing along anything to their heirs – the lowest percentage of any other country according to the HSBC Bank survey.
As is typical, when we think of inheritance, our natural selves think in terms of money – how much am I going to receive or how much am I going to leave to my heirs? How will I spend my inheritance, and what’s the deal with the “inheritance tax”? It is amazing how quickly I begin to feel myself pulled towards selfishness when I contemplate my inheritance.
While the Bible does speak to the idea of inheriting material goods (see the parable of Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32), recently I came across a verse that spoke to me on a higher level. In the first letter that Peter wrote, he begins by encouraging believers with the benefits of our faith – that we have been shown great mercy, that we are born again, and that we have a living hope. And if that wasn’t enough, we have “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Pt. 1:4, NLT). I wanted to know more about this inheritance, so I drilled down on the words that Peter used to describe it.
The first word Peter uses is imperishable, which means not liable to corruption or decay. It is the same word used in Matthew 6:20 to describe treasures kept in heaven, “where moths and rust cannot destroy.” Living most of my life in “the rust belt”, I’m very familiar with decay. You can see it on vehicles, streets, and barns.
The natural processes that exist continually break down and corrupt everything in our world. Contrast that with our spiritual inheritance, which is incorruptible. That is awesome.
Secondly, this spiritual inheritance that Peter describes is undefiled, which communicates the idea of being unsoiled or unblemished. James uses this same word when explaining how Christ-followers live out their faith by visiting orphans, taking care of widows, and experiencing a separated life; a life that is to be “pure and undefiled before God” (James 1:27). This concept may be difficult for us to wrap our minds around as the world we live in is corrupt, lewd, unchaste, and wanton. What an amazing contrast! The final word is unfading. This is the only place this word is used in the New Testament, and it carries the idea of ageless, or ceaseless! I get excited thinking about an inheritance that has these qualities!
My wife helped me understand the significance and blessing of this spiritual inheritance on a very practical level. She reminded me of my Grandpa Gelatt and the book he wrote of his experiences as a pioneer missionary to northern
Saskatchewan in the 1930s. Story after story recounts the goodness, care, and sovereign guidance of our loving heavenly Father as experienced in the life of a simple, committed servant. When I reflect on Grandpa’s life, I discover my spiritual inheritance is the same available to all who follow Christ – imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.