There is nothing quite like planning for your demise to awaken the awareness that this world is not our home. As it says in the old hymn, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.”
Recently, I met with an attorney to finalize instructions in my final will and testament. I provided a written summary of who would receive what from my earthly treasures.
The thing about the final will is the necessity for prioritizing relationships and what we most value in this world. As I reflected on family, friends and others who have been important in my life, I realized I was unclear and confused.
I agonized over questions. “Were my priorities in the right order? Would extended family and friends be hurt or offended?”
It was torture thinking through these decisions, especially without some objective, unbiased input. It seemed everyone from whom I sought advice also had vested interest in my earthly treasures.
This is when I realized, I must go to the only one who can give clear guidance. The Lord, and giver of all that I have, knows best about the stewardship of what I have been given.
Every will is unique and reflects what a person loves and values during their lifetime. Even a person of meager resources will identify jewelry, dishes, cars, books and other tangibles deemed important enough to be preserved as gifts to the beneficiaries.
Both the gifts and the gift-giver become a testament to what a person loves and values.
If you have no biological children, you might have a heart for young people who have been left without (or separated from) parents to care for them.
For others, remembering valued relationships with parents may lead you to think about older adults with limited funds for a comfortable home and medical care. Gifts from the estate will help support those elders in need of safe living environments.
As I thought about how to craft the wording of my will, I knew it would be important to include gifts to my sisters, nieces and nephews that I love and with whom I have fond memories.
I am hoping I can be an example for what it means to be a good steward of what God has given me. Rather than a reflection of personal wealth, the words of the will can be a testimony and witness to what God has given to a person.
It is easy to fret about personal finances. We become fearful and anxious about our money. We hesitate in being generous givers. We may forget the numerous admonitions by God to give to the poor and to those in need.
We often lament, “If I give this amount now, there will be nothing for my grandchildren when I die.” However, I am reminded that Jesus taught clearly stated lessons about worrying for tomorrow.
Most of us can relate to a favorite story of how money arrived just in time to pay the rent or meet the need for a medical bill. Maybe it was the tuition for college, and God stepped in to make sure we could continue our education. We love to tell these redemption tales.
Planning for gifts after we leave this world should be no different. We can’t add a single hour to our earthly life, but we can honor God with our life after our death.
After all, the promise is “… the Father is pleased to give us the Kingdom” (Luke 12: 32). We have only to “sell our possessions and give to the poor.”
This seems a very simple covenant between God and God’s people, and it should guide our stewardship throughout our days.
The Scriptures often describe acts of stewardship as the care of God’s kingdom here on earth. Stewardship that is meaningful and lasting does not end in this world but extends to eternal service to God. It is important to plan for gifts that will extend beyond today and into eternity.
The Apostle Paul reminds us, “We are servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1). We are responsible to God for knowledge, talents and understanding of the Bible and Christian education. We are stewards of the mystery of God’s mercy and grace extended to everyone we meet.
The question we may ask is, “Am I a good steward who wisely invests what God has given, or am I the bad steward who hides and hoards the riches in which I have been entrusted” (Matt. 25:23)?
My estate is planned to provide resources for children and older adults who might be considered less important than the rich and powerful in this world. As we give to those considered least in the kingdom, we are also caring for Jesus who represents all people before the Father (Matt. 25:40).
While I hope money will be used to meet physical needs for people, it is providing for the needs of the human soul that will have eternal value.
More importantly, as a steward of God’s truths, my legacy should be the example I set in sharing the good news of God’s grace through teaching and extending grace to others.
Surely, it must be an enduring message of my stewardship of God’s good gifts.
A retired Associate Professor Emerita at East Carolina University, Brown serves as a deacon officer at Oakmont Baptist Church in Greenville, North Carolina. Along with bike riding, she enjoys reading and tutoring children.