When You Receive an Inheritance…

Written by: Dr. Ken McFayden


My parents grew up during the Depression.  To be sure, this had a significant impact upon how they viewed money and the patterns they developed in spending and saving.

Looking back, I perceive that our family was a lower middle-class family.  My childhood was worry-free when it came to food, shelter, clothing, and the necessities of life.  My parents placed a premium on family, church, and education.  We rarely ate in a restaurant.  My parents tithed and provided us children with money to give in Sunday school.

It was a good, yet simple life.  If my parents ever were stressed about money, they never showed it.  What they would say, as my siblings and I grew older, was that they wanted to be able to take care of themselves in retirement.  They never wanted to turn to us for financial assistance, or to become a burden to us.  As they aged, they never did.

When my mother died in 2010, followed by the death of my father in 2011, their estate was divided equally between my sister, brother, and me.  It was a modest estate.  Still, it was the first and only inheritance I have received.

Dividing among the siblings the possessions they had collected over time was enjoyable.  As we took turns selecting things to keep for ourselves, we shared many memories.  This division of the estate was one of the most meaningful and joy-filled times of my life.

A few months later a check arrived in the mail, representing a third of the financial assets they had accumulated over time and that now was available to their three adult children.  It was a modest amount.  I faced a dilemma as I looked at this check—what would I do with this money?  After all, it was not mine; it was theirs as they had earned it.  I could not envision spending it without first thinking of them.

I began to consider this inheritance as a resource I was called to hold in trust.  To use in ways that would honor my mother and father.  To be a faithful steward of what was, and seemingly remains theirs.  Then I remembered Psalm 24:1-2:

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; For he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.

And I realized that all we have really is God’s.  Not ours.  We are stewards, called to hold in trust that which is God’s.

Question for Reflection

  1. How does this story and biblical passage invite you to think differently about the resources you hold?