The word “inheritance” has a positive ring that evokes visions of good fortune more quickly than of bad debt.
Nevertheless, the word “inheritance” does have a dark side when applied to the whole range of human experience. Take for example the present financial crisis, the effect of all the associated “stimulus” efforts on future generations, and the reality of children inheriting some very bad things from their parents is all too apparent.
Increase in central government spending.
Prepared by the House Appropriations Committee, Republicans
In the spiritual realm, the situation is worse. The overarching “heritage” of all mankind has been a deep and abiding awareness of being “out of place” in a world that doesn’t exactly fit human nature, human potential, and human aspirations. In such a place, the past often seems more like a burden to escape than a blessing to be embraced, more like a prison than a springboard, more like a debt to be paid than venture capital to fulfill a vision.
In terms of inheritance, the real question is not, “why do bad things happen in a world that ought to be all good” but, “why does anything good ever happen in a world that could be all bad?” The latter perspective points to a “graceful” God– one who offers “a better inheritance.”
For apart from God’s grace, people inherit mostly mistakes and misfortunes of their ancestors, making them captive, not only to the past, but also to…
- present circumstances
- future dread
- base instincts
- spiritual blindness
- evil imagination
- “dumb luck”
In contrast, the “people of God” have been called to inherit a blessing– to bless and to be blessed
- Acts 20:32 …the word…which can…give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified
- Acts 26:17 …I am sending you [Paul] to them [the Gentiles] 18 to…turn them from darkness to light…, so that they may receive…a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.
- Rom 8:14 …those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you…received the Spirit of sonship…16 The Spirit…testifies…we are God’s children. 17 …and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
- Eph 1:10 That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ….11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance…13 …in whom…ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 …the earnest of our inheritance….
- Titus 3:7 so that…we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life
- Gal 3:26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise
- Gal 4:6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts…. 4:7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
- James 2:5 …. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
- 1 Cor 15:50 …flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God…. (Also 1 Cor 6:9)
Some may reject the story of Adam, Eve, and the Fall, but it still offers the best explanation for the human condition.
The “good news” is that, even in the midst of that original tragedy, God offered hope. Perhaps it was because Adam’s solidarity with Eve foreshadowed the future solidarity of a “second Adam” with Eve’s children.
In any case, God worked out that primitive gospel across the ages. Along the way, he shaped it in terms of such things as covenant, community, election, birthright, kingdom, holiness, and priesthood. As the “people of God,” Christians inherit all these things and more.
Once we were darkness, but now we are light (Eph 5:8). Once we were alienated, but now reconciled (Col 1:21).
And so it is now possible for people to “stand in the gap,” to realize that the bad things inherited from one’s own ancestors need not be passed on to one’s children.
For this reason, we …
do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this…[we] were called so that… [we] may inherit a blessing (1 Pet 3:9).