5 Tips for Giving a Good Inheritance
Leaving our kids a good spiritual inheritance doesn't happen overnight nor does it happen in a single moment. We must invest early. But how? I offer five tips, practices really, that will help you leave a good inheritance. This list is not exhaustive but it is effective when applied consistently. Most of these tips do not take much time or expertise but they may demand a shuffling of priorities in your heart and life.
1. Your Personal Piety
What impression does it leave on children who, when they wake up early for whatever reason, find their fathers quietly at the table with a cup of coffee and their Bibles open? Or what does it do to their hearts to overhear their mothers on their knees in prayer for them? What will they learn if, after our sin, they see our repentance and witness our seeking forgiveness. Our example matters.
But it's not only your example but their experience of your piety. If you are not treasuring Christ and getting more of Him then what are you passing on? If you are not searching the Scriptures, repenting of sin, and knowing Christ then all other efforts will falter. Husbands, this is especially true for you. When you resist the Lord, you become like a dam in the spiritual river that waters your family. The Lord is gracious and water will spill over and leak through but how much better it will be when the flood gates are opened! It's difficult to leave an inheritance if you've saved nothing up in your own bank account. Whatever it takes, we must make time to, first, be in God's Word and prayer ourselves and, second, be putting it into practice.
2. Pray with Your Spouse
When Jesus tells his disciples how to pray He begins, "Our Father..." (Matt. 6:9-13). His assumption then is that the disciples would pray with one another. If this is a general rule for all Christians, it's hard to fathom that Jesus wouldn't expect believing spouses to follow His directions here, especially when so much of the content applies all the more to marriage and family (daily bread, forgiveness, etc). Husbands, prayer with your spouse will help you to live in a more understanding way (1 Peter 3:7), it will sand the edges off your harshness (Col. 3:19), and it both display love to and help sanctify her (Eph 5:25-26). No other human relationship is more important to the inheritance you leave to your kids than your marriage (that includes your relationship with your kids). Prayer is the final and pinnacle aspect of our spiritual armor (Eph 6:18). If we are to pray for "all the saints" then certainly we are to pray for, and with, our spouses.
3. Family Dinners
Jesus sat down for meals with people... often. In the Gospel of Luke we see Jesus eating in chapters 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 14, 22, 24 (twice). Meals often accompany feasts and celebrations and are meant to create conversation with children in order that the works of God on our behalf might be communicated to the next generation (Ex. 12:25-27). Sit aside phones and tablets. Turn off the television. Sit down around the table. Pray and enjoy. You are sowing the relational fields in which you will plant the seeds of the gospel.
4. Family Worship
Parents, and especially fathers, have been tasked with the responsibility to teach their children how to know and follow the Lord (Gen 18:19; Eph 6:4). Our households derive their nature from the household of God (Eph. 3:15). Everything thing we do is to bring glory of God (Col. 3:17). Why then would we not intentionally worship God within the homes? This time should include read/teaching in the Word, prayer and singing together (catechisms are also helpful). It is vital to find a time that consistently works (following family dinner works great) and stick to it. Lay out the expectations beforehand with kids. Have expectations that push them but don't exasperate them. Then keep it brief (between 10-20 minutes is great). It's better to have more short and consistent times than fewer but longer and inconsistent times. You have 18 years... no need to swallow the apple all at once.
5. "Fit" Moments for Prayer and Teaching
In addition to Jesus' words in Matthew 6, which I've already referenced, I would add here the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:17, "Pray without ceasing". I believe what Paul had in view was not a 24/7 prayer streak but rather a readiness to pray at any moment or time that was "fit" for prayer. Before dinner... check. At bed... check. About to leave on a trip... check. When you pray with your kids you are teaching them something about when and what they ought to think is worthy of prayer. If you never stop and pray with them then why would they think prayer is ever really necessary?
This habit pertains to teaching our children as well. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, "And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." We teach diligently and intentionally in family worship but that's not the only opportunity. It does provides a base foundation from which we can discuss Christ in the day to day activities of our lives. Today's circumstance becomes an opportunity to apply yesterday's passage.
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