Heritage is something that is handed down from the past. A heritage may be property, a reputation, traditions, or a position in life. It is a legacy. Our national or racial heritage refers to the customs, geography, or race of the people or countries into which we were born. For example: “She is proud of her Native American heritage.” Property heritage refers to the inheritance left by ancestors, as in “The diamond watch is part of his heritage from his grandparents.” The Bible has a lot to say about heritage and the fact that children of God are given a spiritual heritage (Ephesians 1:11).
When God told Abram that he would become the father of a great nation, God was establishing a new people (Genesis 12:1–3). The land where Abram sojourned would be his descendants’ heritage (Genesis 17:8; Exodus 6:8; Jeremiah 12:14). Abram’s grandson Jacob, or Israel, moved his family to Egypt because of famine, and there they remained for four hundred years (Genesis 45:9–47). At the end of that time, the Israelites left Egypt and eventually entered the Promised Land (Joshua 1:6). Although they had lived in Egypt for four hundred years, God’s people still retained their heritage as Israelites.
“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” (Proverbs 13:22), and the Old Testament provides examples of fathers passing down a heritage to their children. Abraham’s heritage was given to his son Isaac and grandson Jacob. On his deathbed, Jacob blessed his twelve sons (Genesis 49). A special heritage called the birthright was conferred upon a family’s firstborn son. Isaac’s son Esau gave away his birthright in return for a bowl of stew—he thought so low of his God-given heritage that he traded it for a fleeting pleasure. For that action, Esau is called a “profane person” in Hebrews 12:6.
Psalm 127:3 says that children are a heritage from the Lord. God entrusts parents with new human beings and gives them the responsibility of raising and training those children to know and honor Him (Psalm 139:13–16; cf. Deuteronomy 6:1–9). Because children are a heritage, they should be welcomed with gratitude. Just as we treasure heirlooms handed down to us from great-grandparents, we should treasure the children God entrusts to us as our heritage.
The godly find their sufficiency in God, and they view God’s Word as their heritage: “Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart” (Psalm 119:111). Everyone should live for a heritage that is spiritual and eternal. Romans 8:17 tells us that all those who trust in Christ alone for salvation are made joint-heirs with Him. The heritage of Christians is eternal life (John 3:16–18), heavenly rewards (Revelation 22:12), and citizenship in heaven (Philippians 3:20). As our great Benefactor, God gave His Son to purchase our salvation (2 Corinthians 5:21). He provides the ability and opportunity to invest our lives for Him, then rewards us for doing so. “Those who are victorious will inherit all this [the New Jerusalem and its blessings], and I will be their God and they will be my children” (Revelation 21:7). As His children, we are to do everything in light of our great heritage. Colossians 3:23–24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.”
An earthly heritage is a wonderful gift that adds enjoyment to our lives and helps define who we are. But an earthly heritage is temporary. The Bible urges us to set our sights on an eternal heritage (Matthew 6:19; Colossians 3:1–4). While in this world, we live as “temporary residents and foreigners” (1 Peter 2:11, NLT). We can invest our temporary earthly lives in service to God that results in “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4).