VIC Branch


The faithful steward – Boundless

BY Dr David Knox

David holds a doctorate in superannuation and is an actuary and Senior Partner at a professional services firm in Melbourne. He was Chair of the taskforce for fundraising in Victoria for the St Andrew’s Hall Redevelopment Project. David worships THE LORD at St. Columb’s Hawthorn.


Bequests are becoming an increasingly important part of the finances for many households as older family members may leave a home and/or financial assets on their death.
But what does the Bible say about bequests or inheritances? Actually, quite a bit.

While some of the verses refer to material inheritances, most of the references have a longer term perspective. For example, Leviticus 20:24 refers to the land that the Israelites will inherit as one that is ‘flowing with milk and honey’ and Revelation 21:7 talks of the New Jerusalem as an inheritance which is a wonderful future.

But let’s become a little more focussed on the “here and now” and start thinking of the financial bequests that we may receive or we might leave to others.

I would like to suggest that a fairly common approach to bequests today is that we expect to receive an inheritance from our surviving parent and, if we have children, we will leave our remaining resources on our death with our children and possibly our grandchildren. Simple, really; it all stays in the family.

However, such an approach leaves God out of the picture. We are following the world’s practices. Should there be a different Christian response?
Let’s begin by noting that financial giving is part and parcel of Christian discipleship. It stems from our thanks to God for His grace and mercy and from our love for others, who may not have the spiritual or material resources we enjoy. As Paul writes:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
(2 Corinth. 9:6-7)

The practice of giving some of our earned income or sharing our produce is also consistent with the Lord’s instructions to the Israelites through Moses:

Speak to the Israelites and say to them: When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of its harvest of the first grain you harvest.
(Leviticus 23:10)

God is the giver and life with all its abundance belongs to God.

Let’s start with our own will or testament; that is, the financial resources we might leave.

In today’s society, many individuals and households retire with significant financial resources, either from superannuation or their own savings and investments. These assets are then used during the next 20, 30 or 40 years to fund the living costs of retirement. During these years, many Christians will contribute some of these resources to their local church and to Christian mission agencies, etc. to name a few.

However we also know that many retirees are conservative in their financial affairs because we don’t know how long the funds will have to last. This understandable approach means that most of us will leave an inheritance, so the question becomes, ‘to whom should it go?’

Let’s remember, if we had continued to live, it is likely that some of our financial resources would have been given to Christian organisations.

ence, I want to suggest that this is a good reason why a portion of our estate should be deliberately set aside to fund God’s work on earth.

Note, I am not suggesting a certain percentage or amount. That is a personal decision and will depend on a range of factors that reflect your own circumstances. However, as Christians update their wills, there is a very good reason why some of the resources available in the future should be directed to the work of the kingdom here on earth. After all, we can’t take it with us.

Receiving a financial inheritance is different from almost any other financial income. Its timing is unpredictable, its amount is unknown in advance and it is not a regular income. It will not be repeated.

In most cases we are not relying on it for our financial survival or to meet regular living costs. It is true that in some cases, it has been planned for to pay off a debt, such as a mortgage. However, as many bequests are now received by individuals in their 60s or 70s, I suggest that this planned specific use of the bequest is not the norm.

Notwithstanding some variations, many bequests are now being received by financially secure households who may not need it. In a sense, it is often being added to their assets without much thought.

Of course, there are a variety of personal circumstances and one cannot be dogmatic about the best use of a bequest. However, given that it is a one-off ‘gift’, often from the previous generation, and may not be needed, I want to suggest that those of us who receive such bequests have the opportunity to be ‘super generous’ and make significant contributions to the long term development of God’s kingdom on earth.

Obviously, there is no simple or single answer. However, when we receive a bequest let us be prayerful and consider using such one-off gifts to make one-off payments for strategic work within Christian organisations.

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