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Inheritance Kim Wright - 02-25-24

The following is based on a true story. Somehow, when you see that before a movie it seems to make it more poignant.

The three people sitting in my office had asked for this meeting. It was not hard to tell that they were siblings. I remembered them from presiding over their father’s funeral. Upon hearing their request to meet I assumed it may have something to do with their grieving process.

OR…. that they didn’t like something I said in the service. It wouldn’t be the first time.

But, oh….how wrong I was.

During the initial pleasantries I could sense the daughter’s anxiousness. She cut short the banter and handed me a legal looking document. “Read this!” she almost exploded. “Just take a look at this!” It didn’t take long. It was rather short and to the point. It was their father’s will.

“Why do you want me to read this?” There was nothing in the document about the church (sad to say), but then, neither did I expect there to be. I had met the man in the ICU of the Welland Hospital when, as on-call-chaplain, the nursing staff notified me of his condition. I visited him regularly and he died ten days later. Having no church connection of their own his family asked me to conduct the service.

My remembrance was shattered by the daughter. “Do you see what it says there?’

“Yes. I’m no lawyer but it seems fairly straight forward.”

“And you think that’s okay?”

            “I really don’t think one way or another about it. It’s none of my business.”

“So, you agree with it! You’re okay with the old man liquidating all his assets and giving everything to charity!” Understand this was no small amount we were talking about, well into the seven digits territory.

The temperature in the room was rising. I opened a window.

The eldest son offered a voice of reason. “Don’t get us wrong pastor.” I looked around wondering who he was talking to. I told you before, they weren’t church people)

            “We have nothing against giving to charity, let’s say even 10%. But, all this sounds a little strange, don’t you think?”

“Was being generous a strange thing for you father to be?”

“Well, that’s why we wanted to talk to you. When you were visiting him, at any time did Dad seem unstable? Not in his right mind?”

Not in his right mind. That legal phrase switched on a light for me (although, more often it seems like a dimmer switch).

“You folks are here because you want to contest the will and you want me to testify that he was unfit of mind.”

“Well, was he?” the daughter snarled. I wasn’t making a good impression on her.

“Listen, you have to appreciate the time I spent with him. Your dad was dying, and he knew he was dying. He was connected to so many tubes and machines while they tried to monitor his pain. He was dealing with his own mortality. He was grieving what he was losing.”

“So, he wasn’t in his right mind.”

“I didn’t say that. In those few lucid moments I had with him he seemed quite rational.”

Finally, the youngest chimed in. “So, what did you talk about?”

“I can’t tell you that. That was between your father, God and me.”

“But he’s our father!”

“Paternal claims do not mean you own your father. Simply that he was related to you.”

“So, you won’t tell us?”

“No, but I will tell you it had nothing to do with his will.”

“So, you won’t help us.”

“It has nothing to do with not wanting to help you, but I will not declare legally that he was not in his right mind.”

“Why not?” They were becoming desperate. I was obviously their last resort.                    

“I won’t help your case for several reasons. Firstly, I had no indication that for a man who was facing his own mortality that your father was not in his right mind. Secondly, this will is dated way before I even knew your father. Thirdly, and this to me is the most important one;

what makes you think you’re entitled to his money?” Being put under fire for no good reason

I was starting to get a little testy myself.

“He’s our father!!!” Her screaming was feed with the fear that she might not get a dime.

“It is my very strong opinion that this money belonged to your father. He worked for it. He saved it. He protected his investments. He can do whatever he wants with it.”

“But we’re his children. He owes it to us!”

“Owes it to you? Owes it to you? What a strange thought. I agree that having given birth to each of you, your father and mother were responsible for you to a point. Did they not provide a stable home for you with a roof over your heads? Food on the table? Clothes on your back? Did he not help you get a public school and even post elementary education? Did he not support your interests; i.e. like hockey or whatever. Did he not give you the tools you needed to make your own way in the world? Did he not support and love you?”

“Oh, this is just a waste of time. He’s not going to help us.” The words echoed down the hallway as she grabbed the youngest one by the sleeve and hustled out of the office. The eldest son lifted an apologetic eyebrow, shook my hand, and thanked me for my time.

I went for lunch. And no, I don’t know what happened.


Inheritance. To inherit. The dictionary defines it as receiving money, property, title as an heir at the time of death of the previous holder. An heir: a person legally entitled to the property or rank of another upon that person’s death. It leads us to the question “What do you want your children to inherit from you?” It’s clear from these definitions that in our first world society we see inheritance as the transfer of material things. Consequently, we see inheritance having monetary value.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m Scottish- but I am not a Scrooge. I want what most parents want for their children, not to have them to grovel for an existence. I want them to not only to do well but to have some moderate comfort in their living.

My question is, ‘Is a monetary inheritance although always highly welcomed, the most valuable inheritance?


Another story, this one is also historically true.


In around the time of 445 BCE Nehemiah was working as a cup bearer for the King of Persia, which meant he was the royal food tester; i.e. he ate the food to check it had not been  poisoned. If the King had a lot of enemies, I would assume it was a job that didn’t come with a pension.

Anyway, Nehemiah’s was a Jew, and his family was all back in Jerusalem. One day his brothers came in search of him to inform him how bad things were in Jerusalem. They were surrounded by enemies on all sides. Their adversaries had broken through the city gates, torn down surrounding walls, and pillaged the city. They had even ransacked the temple. Most of the people in the city had fled to the surrounding countryside.

The King could see that Nehemiah was heartbroken. So, he appointed Nehemiah as a governor over the region of Jerusalem and issued him papers of authority and permission to use whatever materials he needed from the King’s land.

Nehemiah soon returned to Jerusalem, gathered the families together and with the King’s gifts rebuilt the walls of the city within 52 days. Once the walls were secured he build stronger gates with the wood from the King’s Forest. He then turned his attention to the ramshackled homes and fixed those. Finally, he restored the temple.

He had promised to return to the King but before he did he elected Ezra to stand in the city streets everyday and read from the law of Moses. He wanted the people to understand that if they followed these guideposts in life and loved their Lord their lives would be better.

Nehemiah eventually returned home. But 12 short years later his brothers show up on his doorstep once more. Jerusalem was again in ruin but this time the threat was internal. The people had forsaken God’s law, replaced the Torah with actual golden calves. Their lives became consumed with owning and privilege and they were not above robbing it from their neighbours.

Divisions grew between the rich and poor. Power was asserted. Many feasted while others starved and wine flowed through the streets.

Nehemiah was devastated. What had his people inherited from him? He had given them all they wanted. He had given them security. Driven their enemies from their doorstep. Provided them with good homes. Even a place of worship. They had inherited what many of us would deem as property, title and maybe even some money, as heirs to being the people of God. Maybe this was the only way they understood inheritance, as monetary.       

But all this had blinded them to the true inheritance Nehemiah had intended to give them.


As I sat having lunch that day my heart became very heavy. I felt profoundly sad for this family. Not because they were probably going to miss out on inheriting a whole lot of money. But because they really missed out on what their father wanted to leave them. It was obvious to me, as I watched them drive away in their rather high-end SUVs, that they probably didn’t need the money. They had what they needed and probably some privilege along with it. It seems that what the father wanted them to inherit was not more, but a sense of the privilege they already had and a social justice conscience.  

Do we keep making more and more to hoard or are there other ways to use the privilege

of our time, our talents and our money? It was the same question Nehemiah was asking his Jewish family as he had Ezra read to them every day from God’s Word. “Now that you have your privilege what are you going to do with it? Share it and work like I did to give others a better life?”


What do we want our children to inherit from us? I can speak only for myself. I want my children to know what it is to be a good person. I want them to look over the walls of their own kingdom building and see all those at the base of their walls who are not only their brothers and sisters but are the foundation upon which their lives have been built.

I want them to be kind people, compassionate people, empathetic people.

I want them to hold others in the palm of their hands.

            I want them to not just take a piece of the pie but to see the whole pie and help serve it to others.

I want them to be happy and know a deep seated joy.

I want them to love and to know what it is to love deeply, eternally, knowing that the treasures of this world only end up in a pile of dust.

I want them to have a sense of belonging not just to me, although I cherish that, but to God and to all of God’s creation.

I want them to feel the wind upon their cheeks and know it is the breath of God.


For now, that’s my list. 

            What do you want your children to inherit?

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