Christians have a special responsibility to take good care of what they own because of the principle of Biblical “stewardship.” What exactly is stewardship, and why does it affect your estate plan? Stewardship begins with the recognition that everything belongs to God. Neither we nor our possessions are our own. God's first commandment to mankind (the Dominion Mandate) provides the template for what is expected of Christians: that they should “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28, [English Standard Version]). This means that it is good for Christians to start families and own land, and to seek the prosperity of both. However, we need not be overly anxious about what we own and how profitable it will be, for Jesus assures us that God watches over us and takes care of us at all times (see Matthew 6:25-34).
So how might a Christian's estate plan differ from an unbeliever's?
The most obvious way for Christians to help build the kingdom of God in their finances is through donations. Churches, Christian schools, colleges, seminaries, and other organizations, teaching ministries, missions, Christian charities and relief of the poor, weak, and helpless, diaconal work, denominations, musical and artistic endeavors, and historical sites – all of these and more are worthy of your financial support, as a way of giving glory to God and supporting your Christian brothers and sisters at the same time. Indeed, generosity is a duty for Christians, not simply a good idea (Ephesians 4:28). Jesus tells Christians not to lay up treasures on earth, but instead to lay up treasures in heaven (Luke 12:20-21). This is not to say that wealth is inherently bad, but it often gives birth to the temptations of greed and selfishness. With stewardship comes the responsibility to plan how to bless others with what is entrusted to us throughout our lives and after death.
We also want to save and leave an inheritance for our children and grandchildren. The Bible always speaks very favorably of having children and caring for them: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” (Psalm 127:3-5a) It also speaks multiple times to the importance of keeping an inheritance for them. Proverbs 13:33 states that “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children.” Paul the Apostle also mentions it in passing, saying that “children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children” (II Corinthians 12:14). Therefore, although using our money to advance the kingdom of God through churches and other Christian institutions is essential, raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is, perhaps, the most important way we can advance God's kingdom. Putting conditions on an inheritance through a trust can teach them stewardship through incentives towards diligence and not rewarding laziness and poor management of money.
Whether the Lord entrusts us with 1 talent or 10, He expects us to give an account. Estate planning is an important tool to ensure that we can give a good account of our stewardship to the end of our lives and beyond.