A Christ-centered Estate Plan does not mean we leave everything to God. In fact, our first responsibility lies with our family (see previous articles). But after caring for our family in whatever manner God directs, we then turn to the biblical basis for charitable giving through our Last Will and Testament or Revocable Living Trust.
God Loves People-Centered Ministries
Throughout Scripture, God expresses His concern for the less fortunate of the world-widows, orphans, infirmed, elderly, poor. The Apostle John gives a stern warning to anyone who knowingly ignores the needy. He questions whether the love of God abides in that person at all (1 John 3:16-17). Paul weighs in by saying “as we have opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
Consider also the fact that Jesus entered this world and died in our place (John 3:16). This demonstrates God’s deep concern for people (Romans 5:8). Where God’s heart lies, so also should our concerns.
These important facts impact the charitable distributions of our Estate Plan. We need to consider a bequest to some organization or individual involved in telling people of Jesus or caring for the needy. We fail to honor God if we fail to make this a prayerful consideration. This does not mean that God requires a distribution to a Christian charity. It means that we at least discuss with Him the possibility.
God’s People Sustain God’s Work
Galatians 6:6 instructs us to share all “good things” with those who have ministered to us (see also Romans 15:24, 1 Corinthians 9:4, 14). God even lists the Levites (the Old Testament religious workers) in the same category with the needy like widows, orphans and the homeless (Deuteronomy 14:29; 26:12). God’s plan calls for His children to support those Christian ministries that have provided spiritual help during one’s life. This includes a church, radio/television ministry, school, mission organization, etc. Once again, the actual decision to include charitable distributions or not, and to what extent, needs to be made after prayerful consultation with the Lord.
Don’t Give Caesar What Isn’t His
Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). Paul builds on that by adding, “Render, therefore… tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom” (Romans 13:7). While both taught the believer’s responsibility to pay taxes, neither advocated giving Caesar what was not due Caesar. Every Christian has the perfect right to avoid paying as much tax as possible (not to be confused with evading taxes). We do not have an obligation to pay more than the minimum tax required by law.
In the context of estate planning, this comes into play with an estate of significant size to subject it to estate tax (death tax). An estate large enough to incur tax can benefit from charitable bequests because such contributions avoid taxes. Since the parameters of estate tax seem to change yearly, check with an Estate Planning professional to determine how your estate fits into current tax law.
Other articles in this seven-part series, Guidelines for Christian Estate Planning:
Click here for Part I: The Biblical Basis for Estate Planning.
Click here for Part II: Biblical Guidelines for Estate Distribution (Article part 1).
Click here for Part III: Biblical Guidelines for Estate Distribution (Article part 2).
Click here for Part IV: Biblical Basis for Charitable Giving.
Click here for Part V: Guidelines for Selecting Charities.
Click here for Part VI: The Believer and Secular Charities.
Click here for Part VII: The Believer and the Ethical Will.
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