Is it wrong to receive an inheritance?

July 23, 2013

Is an inheritance an “ill-gotten” gain?

I love it when people ask questions after a sermon. It shows that not only have they been listening, but more importantly, thinking. After preaching from Proverbs 10:2 (“ill-gotten gains do not profit, But righteousness delivers from death”), I was asked if receiving an inheritance is wrong since you did not work for it.

In most translations, the word inheritance is found 4 times in the book of Proverbs. The other translations use the word inheritance elsewhere, but in reference to God’s blessing His covenant people.

13:22 clearly commends the leaving of an inheritance. It is a good thing. That a monetary inheritance is in mind is brought out by the second part of the verse where wealth is mentioned. It is a good man who would leave money to his children and his grandchildren. If it is not wrong to leave an inheritance, it is not wrong to receive one either. It is a way of sharing or spreading God’s blessings. The last part of the verse implies that God is going to bless His people using the possessions of even bad people.

17:2 also speaks of inheritance as a good thing. In this case someone not in the family benefits as an heir because another who is family doesn’t deserve it. Again we clearly see that the receiving of an inheritance is a blessing.

19:14 likewise encourages the giving and receiving of an inheritance. The structure of the verse parallels a prudent wife (which is a good thing) with houses and wealth (good things). In other words, a father can give you an inheritance, but only God can give you a good mate.

20:21 is the only verse that adds a cautionary note. Although an inheritance is a good thing, sometimes it can be a bad thing because the one receiving it isn’t mature enough to handle the blessing. In this case the inheritance leads to ruin. That doesn’t make receiving an inheritance wrong, but shows the necessity of being wise in how it is used.

These verses clearly demonstrate that an inheritance is not an example of gain gotten improperly. Although the heir may not have worked for it, the one who provided it did.

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