Vol.XIII No.VI Pg.3
August 1976

The Best Bequest

Dan S. Shipley

The most important things that parents leave their children are not to be found in the legal language of a will. Peter writes of certain ones having been redeemed from a vain manner of life and says that such a life was handed down from your fathers (1 Pet. 1:18). Or, as the NASV puts it, redeemed. . . from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers". Obviously, then, parents do bequeath a way of life to their children. No other heritage means more; none could be a greater blessing — or a worse curse; none other is so wrought with eternal consequences. Since the way of life determines the way of eternity, there is a very real sense in which parents may leave their children a legacy of heaven — or hell. Not that children are not free moral agents to determine their own life and destinies (these of our text have changed), but God recognizes parental influence as a powerfully persuasive force in helping or hindering ones manner of life.

Seeing then the possibility of having inherited and, worse, the possibility of passing on a kind of life God calls vain, it is important that we identify and avoid such living. Peter is talking about a kind of living that is aimless; that is void of effect or result. The same word (mataios) is used to describe talk that is without profit (Titus 1:10; I Tim. 1:6); the uselessness of religion with an unbridled tongue (Jas. 1:26) and the emptiness of faith without a resurrected Christ (1 Cor. 15-17). Such is the life where Gods rule is not allowed and where heaven is not a goal of primary and urgent concern. Nowhere is this vain living better depicted than in Ecclesiastes where the wise man shows that all of mans life and labor apart from God is meaningless; it is vanity, an exercise in futility.

As Peter shows in v. 14, the vain life is characterized by lust and ignorance. For the most part, men are governed either by appetite or intellect; by what they want or by what they know. Vain living is a desire-dominated kind of existence. Paul refers to a time when we also once lived in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind.. . (Eph. 2:3). The vain manner of life could not be better defined. Now it is not to say that all who live thusly are backward, uneducated, and irreligious people. On the contrary, the divine viewpoint sees many among the church-going, the wealthy, the educated, the cultured and the high-principled whose lives are not really going anywhere — they are living in vain, seeing only what is near, strictly oriented to the world and its values. They rarely see themselves as needing to be redeemed, much less as doing any disservice to their children in so living.

I think it would not over-simplify Peters principle to say that ANY life is vain that does not give God first place. Not merely to say that Hes first; not just to have some sort of special religious feeling, but to actively, urgently and continually seek to do HIS WILL. This is the point and purpose of life. God deserves it. Our children need such an heritage.