Responsible Wealth Transfer

Do you ever stop to ponder time and eternity? My second oldest daughter lives in Denver and whenever I visit her I am awestruck by the timelessness of the Rockies. God created those mountains at the beginning of time, and their majesty has spoken to generations upon generations of human beings who have encountered them. My small space in time pales in comparison to the span of history that those mountains represent. They inspire me to worship more today.

2 Timothy Chapter 1 also speaks to me of time and eternity. In this chapter, Paul is exhorting his young disciple, Timothy, to “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (v 6). Paul speaks this encouragement against the backdrop of Timothy’s heritage of faith: the “sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice.” (v 5) Timothy is a man caught in a small slice of time, given a particular gift from the Holy Spirit, and challenged to “guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us” (v 14). The long history of faith in Timothy’s family allows him to take his next steps of faith with more perspective than he would have otherwise had, just as the beauty of the Rocky Mountains allows me to worship and follow God with more perspective than I have when I am sitting in my office in Atlanta.

Here’s the rub: God gives us gifts and a calling specific to our lives, at a particular point in time. God also sets each one of us within the context of a larger story – the story of creation as a whole, or the story of faith passed on from generation to generation, or another story that has been woven through your own family tree or your particular culture.

In the arena of wealth transfer, therefore, we have two responsibilities:

1. We have a responsibility to seek God now, to know His calling and purposes on our life, and to live boldly out of those purposes. As Paul told Timothy, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline.” (v 7) The wise and intentional use of our money is a part of living out what we have been given to do with our slice of time and space. It has always been my strong conviction that the best time to transfer wealth and wisdom is while you are alive. If you give your resources while you are alive, then you know that they are going toward God-given purposes. If you give your resources upon your death, you do not know how future generations of children or even future leadership of good ministries will use those resources.

2. We have a responsibility to create a heritage for our children. When I teach on wealth transfer, I emphasize that passing on wisdom may create wealth; whereas passing on wealth rarely creates wisdom. Our children and grandchildren need wisdom; they don’t need wealth. Just as Lois and Eunice created an environment of faith for Timothy, and just as the Rocky Mountains create an environment of glory that enables my worship, we can create environments for our children and grandchildren that will allow them to be truly wealthy, because they will be rich with a legacy of stewardship.

My children know me well and bear the marks (good and bad) of having been my children. My grandchildren are dear to me, but they are the products of many influences about which I know very little. My great-grandchildren may be able to remember me vaguely, but they will probably not recall me with any clarity.

You know what, though? It’s not about me. God has given me a calling specific to this time and space; He will be faithful to do the same for the generations that come after me. My responsibility is to steward what I have been given today and to pass on a legacy of wisdom and faith to my children and grandchildren. You cannot purchase a legacy for your children. You can only steward the resources you have been given today. However, Christ purchased an eternal legacy for us that will not pass away. As Paul said to Timothy, “this grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” (v 9)