by Eddie Thompson
Should we include the church and church-related works in “our” estate plan? Surprisingly, very few members of the church pause and ask this question during the estate-planning process. We give each and every week to the LORD’s work because scripture instructs us to do so. But should we also give from “our” estates as we have prospered? Paul instructs us in 2 Corinthians 9:7 about our stewardship of the Lord’s assets, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”
Do you think Paul, as instructed by the Holy Spirit, was writing only about the discretionary income in our checking account? Do you believe he was including all of our assets? Should every Christian ask if they should leave something from “their” estate to further the work of the kingdom? And should we only give to the LORD from discretionary income?
If you are typical of most Americans, only five percent of your income is discretionary. That means that 95 percent of your income is committed to living expenses.
Acts 4:37 summarizes what had taken place in the early church when Christians gave their assets to the work of the church. These are great examples of Christians who believed so much in the church’s mission that they gave their possessions to care for others. They gave things, not just money. They gave some or all of what “they owned." Should we follow their example when it comes to the LORD’s possessions?
This discussion should begin with the consideration that God owns everything. Psalms 50:10 instructs us that the LORD owns even the cattle on a thousand hills. He has shared His wealth with us. He owns it all. He has placed some assets in our hands to be used for our livelihood and His glory. We are only stewards for a brief period, but we are given the opportunity to spend His resources as He would.
One objection that I have heard over the years is that we don’t know how the church of the future will use these funds if they are given to a church. All of us could ask that question about giving to our heirs. Will our children, grandchildren, or nieces and nephews use their inheritance wisely? We give because we are instructed to give. That is our responsibility. It is the church leaders’ responsibility to use it wisely.
Now we go back to the original question; should we include the church or church-related works in our estate plans? The real answer lies in our view of “our” assets. If God owns everything and we are just His stewards, then we should consider the best use of these assets. We are commissioned to care for our family and there are many examples in Scripture of saints leaving an inheritance to their heirs. There is therefore, nothing wrong in leaving some of these assets to help our heirs.
Should we leave all of what has been given to us to our heirs? Scripture is replete with examples of believers leaving an inheritance to their heirs. That is not really up for debate. But should we give back to the LORD some of what we have prospered?
There are many passages that help us address these issues. There are three that have helped many decide what they should do.
Luke 12:48 teaches us that to whom much is given, much is expected. We are to wisely use all gifts from God. What are the best ways to use these gifts for God’s glory? Just like the individuals in Matthew 25 who were praised for the best use of the talents given to them, we are to use the talents He gave us wisely.
We give because we are thankful for His blessings that he has shared with us. We give out of gratitude. It is much like the story told by Jesus as recorded in Luke 17:12-18. Jesus had healed ten who were banished from society because they were lepers. Nine ran to see their families after having seen the priest. One came back to personally thank Jesus. His life had been changed. The Lord had given him a great and life-changing gift. He was thankful. Before he went to see his family he gave thanks to the one who had blessed him. This powerful story reminds us of the great gifts we have been given and one way we can say thank you is to give back to the LORD some of what he has shared with us. Have you been given much? Is much expected of you? Pause and ask yourself, should I include the church or church-related organizations in my estate plan?
Have you been given much? Are you blessed beyond measure? What if you decided to give a percent of “your” estate to the church or church-related organization out of gratitude for all of “your” blessings? Would your family suffer? Would God be glorified if you gave some of what He has placed in your hand back to benefit His work? Should you include the Kingdom in your plan? These are very important questions, which have deep spiritual implications.