I have found great wisdom in the adage, "That which you own will eventually own you!" Having surrendered my hard-earned dollars for a new object only obligates me to maintain and protect it; instead of its contributing to my pleasure, I must spend my precious Saturdays oiling it, mowing it, painting it, repairing it, cleaning it, or calling the Salvation Army to haul it off. The time I might have invested in worthwhile family activities is spent in slavery to a depreciating piece of junk.
The folly of materialism was dramatically emphasized during my most recent trip to England. As I toured the museums and historical buildings, I was struck by what I called "empty castles." Standing there in the lonely fog were the edifices constructed by proud men who thought they owned them. But where are those men today? All are gone and most are forgotten. The hollow castles they left behind stand as monuments to the physical vulnerability and impermanence of the men who built them. Not one has survived to claim his possession. As Jesus said of the rich fool who was about to die and leave his wealth, "Then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?" (Luke 12:20 KJV)
May I say with the strongest conviction that I want to leave more than "empty castles" behind me when I die. When I reach the end of my days, a moment or two from now, I must look backward on something more meaningful that the pursuit of houses and land and machines and stocks and bonds. Nor is fame of any lasting benefit. I will consider my earthly existence to have been wasted unless I can recall a loving family, a consistent investment in the lives of people, and an earnest attempt to serve the God who made me. How about you?
History confirms the dangerous influence of money. Men and women have lusted for it, killed for it, and died for it. Money has come between the best of friends and brought down the proud and mighty. And alas, it has torn millions of marriages limb from limb!
It's also been my observation that nothing will divide siblings more quickly than money. Giving them a large inheritance increases the probability of tension and disharmony within a family. Your sons and daughters will fight over control of your businesses, and they'll resent those who are designated as decision makers. Some of them will lose their motivation to be responsible and will experiment with various addictive behaviors—from gambling to alcoholism. There are exceptions to these negative consequences, of course, and some people do handle wealth and power gracefully. But it is a difficult assignment at best and one that requires the greatest maturity and self-control.
The question to ask is whether or not leaving large amounts of money to offspring is worth the risk it imposes on those you love. You must decide if you want to remove from your children the challenges that helped you succeed—the obligation to work hard, live frugally, save, build, and produce by the sweat of your brow. Do you feel right about replacing that need for discipline and industry with a ready-made empire that can be mishandled or squandered?
Please understand that I know this view is unconventional. One of the reasons people work so hard is so their children won't have to. They love their kids immeasurably and want to make things easier for them. Further, they've invested a lifetime in the development of a business and the accumulation of wealth. Are they now going to sell it and walk away? That's an unpleasant prospect for any parent.
I can't make that decision for others, of course. My obligation is simply to present the issue as I see it. And in my experience, the inheritance of wealth is threatening to family relationships, self-discipline, spiritual commitment, and responsible living. It should be done only with great care, years of preparation, and much prayer.
From Dr. Dobson's book, Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide.