The 2003 documentary Born Rich surveys the lives of the children of extremely wealthy and influential business owners in America. Most of those who inherited an enormous amount of wealth from their parents or grandparents end up squandering it and ruining their lives. No matter how much financial freedom is gained, it doesn’t protect against living a reckless and unfulfilled life.
The Bible has much to say about the importance of an inheritance. The idea of the firstborn son gaining an inheritance from his father is integral to God’s plan in redemptive history. Whether it was in the families of the patriarchs, or among the inhabitants of Israel, gaining and keeping an inheritance was a large part of the lives and experiences of God’s people. There was, of course, a spiritual dimension to the Old Testament allusions to inheritance. The earthly inheritance pointed forward to the eternal inheritance purchased for us by Christ on the cross. Jesus came into the world to be the heir of all things, and to graciously make His people heirs of the everlasting inheritance that He secured. But there is something else that Scripture likens to the value of an earthly inheritance in this world, namely, wisdom.
Ecclesiastes 7:11–12 says, “Wisdom is as good as an inheritance… protection as silver is protection; but the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of its owner.” In a chapter that speaks directly about the dangers of money (v.7), we find an unexpectedly positive statement in which wisdom is likened to money. The comparison between wisdom and an inheritance teaches us that wisdom is a spiritual commodity for life in this fallen world. We need wisdom for every facet of our lives. This is an important principle for us to learn, when we consider what ought to be of most importance to us in this life. There are also the tangible benefits of protection and safety that are gained in the pursuit of wisdom; If we incline our hearts to godly wisdom, we will avoid great evils under the sun.
No one had more wealth or wisdom than Solomon, but the king had far more still; he’d inherited a kingdom that was more glorious than others in his day. More important than material goods, the Lord gave Solomon a wise and understanding heart, and so he learned to value wisdom more than riches. Still, he cautions, “Don’t be excessively righteous, and don’t be overly wise” (Ecclesiastes 7:16). Instead, we ought to seek balance, because when it comes to the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge, we must learn to be content with the utter impossibility of knowing everything. Our contentment will never come from knowing or learning more; the beginning of true wisdom can only come in fearing and revering our God (Proverbs 9:10).
Written by Nick Batzig