Have you ever got one of those emails telling you there is a huge inheritance waiting for you?
You know, the one that tells you that some person with the same surname as you has died, and because there are no living relatives to claim the estate, you can claim it yourself.
All you need to do is send me few thousand dollars, and I will start the legal process to make a claim on your behalf.
Yep, sure thing!
I guess this sort of thing must work at least sometimes. Perhaps it taps into the hope many of us have: maybe someone, (not too close to me so I don't have to grieve too much) will fall off the perch and will leave me a fortune that will answer all my money woes and let me live in the lap of luxury.
There have been a number of times I have actually been on the receiving end of a financial inheritance, though.
The most interesting one would have to be from my great-aunt, who died when I was still a baby. She left a small amount of money to all her female relatives - she had no children of her own. This was held in trust until I was twenty-one, or could be used at my parent's discretion. The stipulation was that it was to be used to enable me, as a woman, to do or achieve something I otherwise could not.
For my great-aunt, the inheritance was not just about the money. Growing up in the early 1900's she was fortunate to have a father who believed that girls should be educated just as much as boys. All his daughters went to university, and my great-aunt followed her father's footsteps, becoming a doctor. In fact, she was one of the first women doctors in Adelaide.
It wasn't until recently that I realised another aspect of this legacy. I had always taken it for granted that I was given the same opportunity in education as my brothers. The fact that my father expected me to study sciences and maths (as he did my brothers - the only subjects worth learning!), was harder to appreciate, though!
My father died well over ten years ago now, but I well remember his funeral. It was a very difficult day as our relationship with him had been strained. However, I felt that I wanted to honour my father anyway. Looking back, there were so many aspects of our family life that were part of our inheritance from him.
These ranged from a sense of adventure to the way we were expected to treat others and behave, and even to our Christian faith. Among many others, they were all values he planted in his family.
There is a story Jesus told about inheritance that many are aware of. We call it the parable of the Prodigal Son. The various aspects of this parable have been explored unendingly, but here are a few pertinent thoughts.
The most obvious is about the young son.
In asking for his inheritance, he was basically wishing his dad was dead. He saw no value in his relationship with his father past the money. When he got it, the Storyteller says, he went off and squandered his inheritance on wild living.
In the end, he really didn't even value the money.
When he returns to his father, we are given a glimpse of his older brother.
This older brother was pretty upset with the father's lavish acceptance of the squanderer. However, I don't think he really understood what his inheritance was either. He accuses his father of not giving him anything, while spoiling his brother. However, his father reminds him that he was able to enjoy everything the father had as his own, at any time.
This topic of inheritance is addressed many other times throughout the Bible. One of my favourites is the promise of our inheritance through Jesus. It includes being able to see clearly, healing of our bodies and souls, and probably my favourite: our freedom. In other places, we are told we inherit the Kingdom of God, which is all these things and more.
Can we be guilty of squandering our inheritance?
Do we, like the younger son, fail to truly value the healing and freedom that has been given to us? Do we waste God's provision for us on self-indulgence and self-gratification?
Or like the older son, are we failing to even realise or connect with the fact that healing, freedom and provision are already ours? Have we failed to access our birthright?
What is it you value most in your inheritance?