Gift Planning

This week we're pleased to share the following from Michael Reeves, one of the authors of Creative Giving.

While the concept of estate planning is a relatively new idea, the principles of managing the assets God provides to us are biblical. Although it is not a biblical statement, the following comment, attributed to Andrew Carnegie, is certainly congruent with these principles: The man who dies rich dies disgraced.

It is not that biblical principles decry wealth; rather, it is when accumulating or protecting wealth becomes the objective of one's life that the biblical principles insist on a shift to faithful obedience to our God as the One God. The same could be said for holding wealth without plans to use the resources that God has provided for the well-being of all concerned, particularly because one no longer needs the resources after death.

The magnificent biblical gift of generosity has crossed the generations from biblical times to our time. Giving and receiving are basic to our livelihood, whether they are done individually, with family, or with our congregation. We can learn from those who have shown us, through their planning and generosity, how the work of Jesus Christ can be enhanced and perpetuated by creative giving. Here is an example:

Even though they had lived in a number of communities throughout their married lives due to his work in the petroleum industry, a couple decided to retire to an area near their daughter. Neither of them had been able to attend college, but both were highly committed to the importance of higher education. They had seen to it that their daughter had the benefit of a college education when she graduated from high school.

During their retirement, the couple became active at a church. There, the congregation had several endowed scholarships that were presented annually to young members.

Upon the couple's deaths, their daughter became their executor. They had instructed her to tithe the residuum of their estate after all of the bills had been paid and all accounts settled.

Prior to their deaths, the couple's Sunday school class had established a new scholarship fund. While setting up the fund, the class decided that no scholarships would be awarded until the corpus reached a certain level. This was to assure that the amount of each scholarship would be significant enough to make a difference in the recipient's finances. This simple bequest from a loving, generous, and farsighted couple moved the scholarship endowment across the threshold and allowed for the first scholarship to be awarded early the following summer.

Another truly moving part of the story was the joy that the daughter expressed by fulfilling her parents' dream. She wasn't resentful that money had been taken away from her, their heir. Because her parents had discussed the matter with her prior to their deaths, she was aware of the intent and fully supportive of their understanding of Christian stewardship.

The value the couple placed on higher education and their dedication to being good, disciplined stewards of God's provisions is perpetuated through the endowment. Each recipient is taught about both of these values, for they ensure well beyond the lifetimes of the donors.

Matthew 6:21 says "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Somewhere along the way, we have come to an understanding that the accumulation of assets to assure a long, comfortable retirement is the goal of our life's work. Unfortunately, this view departs from the basic Christian theology of God's ownership of all we possess. We are well-fixed and shouldn't forget who fixed us in the first place. The central issue isn't the limitations we perceive, but the living out of our salvation as disciples grateful to a loving God who has provided for us.