Tag Archives: Inheritance

Corporate Changes; Eternal Brand

The Lord said to Aaron, “You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among them; I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites.”
Numbers 18:20 (NIV)

I’ve recently taken on new responsibilities in our company that began with leading a strategic planning effort this past month. As part of that process, I’m evaluating the way our business does things and considering changes, enhancements, and improvements. I don’t want our team to simply make changes for the sake of change. There’s got to be good reason for the things we do that accurately reflects who we are and contributes to what we are called to do as a business.

As I think to the future and the road ahead for our group, I also find myself being mindful of the legacy of our founder’s mission. I don’t want to lose sight of what the company was created to be. There are some things that don’t change with regard to our brand. If anything, some things need to become enhanced. It’s simply who we are.

In many ways, the book of Numbers that we’re journeying through a chapter-a-day was God’s spiritual business plan for the ancient Hebrews. It’s an organizational manual for how God was establishing a system of worship. Things were not structured haphazardly. There are reasons that God, the founder and CEO, is structuring things a particular way.

One of the curious decisions God made was to make sure the priests and Levites, who were in charge of the temple, the offerings, and the sacrifices, could not own land or have an inheritance. “I am your share and your inheritance,” God said.

There is a very important purpose in setting up the team this way. Those who were part of the priesthood, the ones who were the spiritual conduit between God and humanity, were to understand and constantly maintain an eternal perspective. To quote the old bluegrass classic, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ though.” The priests and Levites didn’t own land and didn’t have inheritance passed between generations because they understood that ultimately this whole earthly journey has an eternal destination. The world and all the stuff get left behind. The priest and Levites were invested in that which is beyond this world, those things which are eternal, the things that the Founder and CEO are really all about.

Times changed over the course of history. The system changed. The spiritual marketplace went through a great depression. Legacy ways of doing spiritual business in this world changed. Jesus came to be the ultimate sacrifice once for all. Holy Spirit was poured out into all believers. It was a new economy for spiritual business, and God’s spiritual business plan was getting a face lift. Old religious practices passed away like the telegraph, the ticker tape, and the IBM Selectric. New sacraments and paradigms were put into place.

But some things don’t change.

The legacy concept of the priests not having an earthly inheritance did not go away as part of the updated business plan. In fact, Jesus made it clear that God being the “share” and “inheritance” was a foundational, core part of God’s brand. It was a corporate value that was no longer limited to one team in the organization, but shared by all. It was part of every team members job description. In speaking to all the shareholders on the mountainside, Jesus said:

“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” Matthew 6:19-21 (MSG)

The CEO was updating the business plan, and the old business silo of the “priesthood” was being functionally expanded to include everyone in the organization (1 Peter 2:9-10). Along with it, everyone in the organization was to understand that this world, and the things of this world, have zero eternal value. The world, and the things of this world, in no way contribute to the mission and goals of the organization. They will not help the organization be successful in implementing the strategic plan. Therefore, this world and the things of this world are not where members of the organization are to invest our resources, our energies, or our corporate concerns.

This is the legacy from the Founder. This is the brand.

It’s simply who we are, and who we are to be.

Inheritance

Wendy and me in front of a portrait of H.P. Scholte.
Wendy and me in front of a portrait of H.P. Scholte.

“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: If the prince makes a gift from his inheritance to one of his sons, it will also belong to his descendants; it is to be their property by inheritance. If, however, he makes a gift from his inheritance to one of his servants, the servant may keep it until the year of freedom; then it will revert to the prince. His inheritance belongs to his sons only; it is theirs.'”
Ezekiel 46:16-17 (NIV)

This weekend is our town’s annual Tulip Time festival in which we celebrate those brave Dutch immigrants who braved unspeakable hardship to carve out a life for themselves on the Iowa prairie back in 1847. Tens of thousands of visitors will descend on Pella over the weekend to see the tulips, to see locals dressed in Dutch costumes complete with wooden shoes, to watch the parades, and to enjoy Dutch treats from a plethora of vendors. It’s quite an event. If you’ve never been, then you need to put it on your bucket list.

As part of the festival this year, Wendy and I have been asked to don period costumes and portray our town’s founder, Dominie (Dutch for “Reverend”) H.P. Scholte and his wife Maria. We will hang out in the Scholte House museum and historical village to greet guests and will ride in horse drawn wagon in all the parades.

Being a history buff and having played “the Dominie” in a handful of stage productions, I continue to do quite a bit of research about Scholte and his wife. They were amazing people, and our little town’s on-going success has their fingerprints all over it. The Dominie was also a stubborn Dutchman, a fierce individualist, and a lightning rod who stirred controversy throughout his life. He was wealthy, and when he came to the U.S. his wealth converted from Dutch guilders to Iowa acres. Even in death, his inheritance and the distribution of land was the source of controversy and conflict.

Inheritance is a tricky business fraught with the potential for all sorts of miscommunication and emotional entanglements that result in hurt feelings and family squabbles. I would dare say that there is not a culture in this world that does not experience the pain of conflict over inheritance. This morning I was reminded of the Dominie as I read the rules given through Ezekiel regarding inheritance of land in Israel. The Israeli royal could only give land to children. If it was given to a servant, then on a prescribed year the land reverted to the family.

That reminded me of this from Paul’s letter to the Romans:

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Today, I am thankful for the many ways we receive inheritance. I’m thankful for forebears who founded an amazing community that thrives 168 years later. I’m thankful for ancestors who carved a path and provided for my success and abundant life in a plethora of ways. I’m thankful for Jesus, who made provision for me (and any who would choose to receive it) to be adopted in God’s family as a co-heir to enjoy the full rights, privilege, blessing and inheritance thereof.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 16

The land you have given me is a pleasant land.
    What a wonderful inheritance!
Psalm 16:6 (NLT) 

Wendy and I have been thinking a lot about our land in recent weeks. We’ve been dreaming about some things we’d like to do with our house and garage. To that end we’ve been looking at how our lot is laid out. We’ve been talking with our city’s Building Inspector about lot lines and property pins. The abstract to our house and land is sitting right next to the computer here at my desk.

We love Iowa with its beautiful rolling hills and landscape that constantly changes color and texture with the seasons. We love this quirky, quaint little town with all its Dutch heritage and small town silliness. We love this little lot and our little brick tudor house.

When I read the verse above this morning my heart sighed an “Amen!” God has given us an inheritance in a pleasant land. Today, I’m thankful for a pleasant land and a wonderful inheritance.

Chapter-a-Day Numbers 36

Deed 1661 signed at Rehoboth Massachusetts Ind...
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“No inheritance-land may be passed from tribe to tribe; each tribe of the People of Israel must hold tight to its own land.” Numbers 36:9 (MSG)

Land is a funny thing. We like to think we own it, and in doing so we attach all sorts of value to it and allow it to have a strange sense of power over us. The land I own here at home was first owned by the founder of the town, H.P. Scholte. All of the Dutch settlers gave Scholte their life savings and he pooled the money to buy all of the land around here, then parceled it out once the U.S. Government gave him the deeds. The problem was that it took a while for the Government to process the paperwork (some things never change, I guess). The delay created all sorts of conflict and scandal in the fledgling community. People became obsessed with claiming and owning their land. I can still see some of those obsessive attitudes in the descendents who inherited it.

The land that I “own” in Missouri was first developed in a time of blatant racism. The paperwork to my land includes handwritten instructions by the racist landowners that the land may never be owned by anyone other than a pure blooded caucasian. How very sad.

I’ve been reading through The Lord of the Rings again. I lost count how many times I’ve read the epic tale. In The Two Towers, two Hobbits are sunning themselves on the peak of a tall hill and they run into an ancient Ent – a giant tree-like creature who shepherds the trees. He asks the Hobbits what they call the thing they are standing on:

“Hill?” suggested Pippin. “Shelf? Step?” suggested Merry.

Treebeard repeated the words thoughtfully. “Hill. Yes, that was it. But it is a hasty word for a thing that has stood here ever since this part of the world was shaped.”

Indeed. Today I am reminded that I may own land, but if I’m not careful it can end up owning me. The truth of the matter is that in the end we all die and, as God’s Message reminds us, return to the ground from which we were made. I may hold claim to a piece of land for a short time, but the land will ultimately claim me.

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Chapter-a-Day Numbers 32

estranged
Image by Norma Desmond via Flickr

They continued, “If you think we’ve done a good job so far, give us this country for our inheritance. Don’t make us go across the Jordan.” Numbers 32:5 (MSG)

Land is a funny thing. Along life’s journey I’ve watched families and friends become enemies over land disputes. I’ve watched people fall into deep bitterness, anger, and resentment over arguments about boundary lines and the inheritance of land. I’ve written a lot about how things have changed since the time of Moses, but there are some things that I observe never change.

I knew two upstanding men who, each week at church, claimed a pew on the opposite side of one another in the sanctuary. They’d been feuding over a boundary line between their farms for decades and refused to speak to one another or sit near one another in church. In another case, I watched as parents used land and their children’s inheritance as a tool of manipulation and power which ultimately divided the family. I’ve seen siblings back bite and slander their brothers and sisters throughout their parent’s funeral as they squabble over who is going to get what in the estate. I’ve known people so focused on maximizing and increasing their land wealth that they isolated themselves until their land became a relational island.

Today, I’m reminded that the things of God can’t be bought or sold, nor can they be hoarded, deeded, or put into our last will and testament. Land, like all earthly possessions will end up possessing us if we do not guard our hearts closely.

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Chapter-a-Day Numbers 26

Last Will And Testament
Image by Ken_Mayer via Flickr

God spoke to Moses: “Divide up the inheritance of the land based on population. A larger group gets a larger inheritance; a smaller group gets a smaller inheritance—each gets its inheritance based on the population count. Numbers 26:52-54 (MSG)

Along the journey I have had the experience of walking families through the death of a loved one and the accompanying grief process. Death is a subject most of us try to avoid, and therefore it is a stretch of life’s journey that few individuals – not to mention entire families – are prepared to walk through.

What has been extremely sad for me to witness is the descent into conflict and bitterness that often occurs after the funeral of the deceased loved one. Family members position themselves for shares of the family inheritance. Sometimes the conflict is over large sums of money and land, but it I have often witnessed just as much conflict over small material possessions of little worth.

Looking back, I recognize that the issues and conflicts which arose while dividing the inheritance were the fruit of relational and emotional seeds planted within the family system years, sometimes generations, before the argument took place.

In today’s chapter, God gives Moses instructions for the division of the land in which the people are going to settle. The will is being drawn up. The inheritance is going to be divided among the 12 tribes representing numerous family clans and 600,000 men and their families. If you think there’s conflict in dividing the inheritance among a relatively small nuclear family, imagine the conflict that’s going to occur among the tribes, clans and families of the millions of Israelites.

The largest tribe, according to the census was Judah. This meant that Judah would received the largest amount of land as an inheritance. It’s interesting to note that Judah would eventually secede from the other tribes, establishing its own kingdom and entering into civil war with the other tribes. Were the seeds of that eventual discord planted in this process of dividing the inheritance of the land?

Today, I’m reminded that this world, with all that it possesses, is not my home. I’m reminded that the things of true value cannot be bought, sold, divided, or acquired by legal inheritance. I’m thankful for family and friends who value love more than any material object this world could possibly contain.

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