Winning and Losing

He who dies with the most toys wins.

I still remember this popular bumper sticker from my high school days. Both a ridiculous declaration and an accurate description of how many people lived, it was funny because it spoke the truth with a lie. Even best-selling board games Monopoly and Life shamelessly endorsed this widely practiced theology. If you succeeded in accomplishing the great American capitalist dream of dying with more assets than you could ever possibly use or need, then you were declared a winner.

But what did you win? He who died with the most toys still died, just like the other poor guy who died with few or no toys. Acquisition wasn’t the problem; acquisition of the temporary without investment in the eternal was, and still is the problem. As martyred missionary Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

As Randy Alcorn, in The Treasure Principle put it:

“Our present life on earth is a dot. It begins. It ends. It’s brief. But from that dot extends a line that goes on forever. That line is eternity, which Christians will spend in heaven. Right now we’re living in the dot. But what are we living for?

We should live not for the dot but for the line. The person who lives for the dot lives for treasures on earth that end up in junkyards. The person who lives for the line lives for treasures in heaven that will never end.

Giving is living for the line. We’ll each part with our money. The only question is when. We have no choice but to part with it later. But we do have a choice whether to part with it now….

Live for the line, not for the dot.”

The Treasure Principle, pp. 50-51.

As an estate planning attorney, virtually all of my clients opt for the same plan to dispose of their assets when both husband and wife die. They leave it all to the kids. That may make sense if “all” is a modest amount when divided amongst their heirs, sufficient to cover the living expenses of minors and children with special needs, and generous enough to pay off the debts, including college costs and possibly reasonable mortgages of older adult children.

But what about when “all” is much more than your children need? Is it really a good idea to leave each of your adult children $300,000 or more in assets? We want to bless our children, but is more money, beyond a certain basic amount, actually going to make their lives easier or better? And even if it makes their lives easier, does easier always mean better, particularly for a Christian? Is there no value in the struggle, in the joy of trusting God and having to depend on Him and not on an inheritance to meet our needs?

I wonder what Jesus will say to all the Christian men and women who leave their large estates to their adult children, who either did not need it or who squandered it, spending it all on themselves, instead of using it for God’s kingdom purposes, including reaching the lost and meeting the basic physical needs of the poor for food, clothing and shelter?

As Alcorn says:

“Leaving a large inheritance to your children is not just a missed opportunity to invest in God’s kingdom. It’s also rarely in the children’s best interests….More important than leaving your children an inheritance is leaving them a spiritual heritage….Let God decide how much to provide for your adult children. Once they’re on their own, the money you’ve generated under God’s provision doesn’t belong to your children – it belongs to Him….

God comes right out and tells us why He gives us more money than we need. It’s not so we can find more ways to spend it. It’s not so we can indulge ourselves and spoil our children. It’s not so we can insulate ourselves from needing God’s provision. It’s so we can give – generously. ‘You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.’ 2 Corinthians 9:11….God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving….

Just because God puts His money in our hands doesn’t mean He intends for it to stay there! Abundance isn’t God’s provision for me to live in luxury. It’s His provision for me to help others live. God entrusts me with this money not to build my kingdom on earth, but to build His kingdom in heaven.”

The Treasure Principle, pp. 71-73, 75–77.

An even greater demonstration of faith than leaving most of your estate above a certain amount to a Christian ministry, mission or charity following your death, is your willingness to give generously now, while you are still alive and may need those resources one day. This type of giving is where the rubber of your faith meets the road of reality. It requires you to decide whether you will bank on God or your own bank balance to supply your needs; to choose whether to believe in and trust God’s promises or treat them as empty and void.

It is not a sin to have more than we need or even to be wealthy. However, if we devote our lives to acquiring possessions for ourselves while neglecting significant eternal investments, then when we die, we lose. He who dies with the most toys will have to explain to God why he did not use his resources to help the needy and further God’s kingdom.

Give now, give often, give much. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21

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