for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. My point is this: heirs, as long as they are minors, are no better than slaves, though they are the owners of all the property; but they remain under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.Galatians 3:26-4:7
According to some studies, up to 70% of people who receive an inheritance squander it within two years. Other studies show that up to 90% of people who inherit money no longer have that wealth by the third generation. More often than not, it seems, it is because those who made the money did not adequately prepare those who inherited it on how to spend it wisely.
Paul often talks about being joint heirs with Christ, and tries to remind his readers that by believing in the work of Jesus in this world, we are not just children of God, but that we also inherit God’s kingdom. Children in the ancient world really didn’t have much more rights than the slaves that they were being raised by, because until they came to be of age, they would not have the rights to the inheritance granted to them. Paul is likening being under the law, or being required to uphold the law, as the same as being a child. Then, coming to understand the freedom that Christ’s death and resurrection granted to people is likened to becoming an heir to the kingdom of God. Those that were slaves in a wealthy household in the ancient world could never attain the inheritance that the child they were raising could. But under Christ, they would become an heir, just like that child. This is a reference to the Jews – God’s chosen people – and the gentiles; now that Christ had come, Gentiles have the same inheritance in the kingdom of God as those born into the Jewish faith. This was good news to those outside of Israel – or should have been.
It seems to me that we often forget that we are joint heirs of Christ, and therefore have access to the inheritance of the Kingdom of God. Too often, belief in Christ is equated with eternal life, as if that is the only inheritance that we receive. But as expressed in the book of Acts, and in various other areas of Paul’s letters, the Holy Spirit, the spirit of God is one of the things that we inherit as children of God. And this gift, the gift of the Spirit, is not something that we get only at the end of our lives.
Instead, as Paul gets further into his letter to the Galatians, he gets around to expressing what the fruits of the Spirit are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These are the gifts that we inherit even now, and which we can access through our acceptance of the gift of Christ. Trouble is, it seems, we have not always been taught how to use our inheritance, and so we squander that inheritance, rather than using it wisely. Instead of love, we often push hatred in the name of Jesus, saying that God would not love those who live in sin. Paul called himself chief among sinners, because he understood the gift he had received, while too often we call others sinners, and name ourselves as the righteous. We often peddle anger, and self-righteous indignation, rather than joy, kindness, and gentleness. Instead of faithfulness to the good news that Christ’s death made us heirs in God’s kingdom, we often find ourselves faithful to political ideologies.
Why do we squander our inheritance? Probably because it is easier to live within the construct of our cultures than to be countercultural like Jesus. Jesus up-ended the way of life for many people who thought that they were righteous, by showing them that they were motivated by fear, by power, or by greed, rather than love for God. If we are children of God, we inherit the Spirit of God, and if we inherit the Spirit of God, we begin to display in our lives those things that are of God, and not of this world.
κληρονόμος – Kleronomos, out, o – heir;1
- Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 1 volume (TDNT), pp. 445-446
Mike is a jack of all trades, master of none. He’s a data analyst, programmer, and loves to cook. If he doesn’t have his face buried in a book or is staring blankly at a computer screen, you can find him on a motorcycle, enjoying the ride.
Mike holds a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary, and is a postulant for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona. He will attend Sewanee School of Theology for a year of Anglican Studies in the Fall of 2022.