An old woman in my village died two months ago. She was close to a hundred years. Her husband died during the emergency and she singlehandedly brought up her six children. She never remarried and earned her living by cultivating the three-acre piece of land her husband left her. She would also seek employment as a casual labourer in the nearby Karen estate. She was a peace loving and kind-hearted woman. We loved her and as children, we used to frequent her home where we were sure to get a serving of mukimo (mashed potatoes and maize) or ripe bananas and avocado when they were in season.
In her sunset years, four of her children had neglected her. She had been ailing for quite a while before her death and apart from her two children who took care of her; the rest minded their own businesses. But on the day the old woman was taken to hospital in critical condition where she died a few hours later, the four showed up. Of the six children, three were not interested in knowing how their mother was doing: they wanted to know where the title to her land was. So three children ganged up against three and all hell broke loose.
The old woman had not even been declared clinically dead when they started a quarrel that degenerated into blows. They were fighting over the piece of land their mother cultivated all those years to feed them. They even disagreed over who should collect and keep the burial permit as their mother was gasping for her last breath. It took the intervention of one of their uncles to calm their nerves but only temporarily.
Back at home, the seemingly stronger side took over burial arrangements and decided to occupy the secretary and treasurer’s position of the burial committee. They would take nothing for granted. The other siblings retreated to the background and acted as if there was nothing going on in their mother’s home. One completely kept off the burial preparations.
I attended the funeral and I can write here that the only people who seemed to mourn the dead woman were the villagers. The woman’s children and their children were indifferent. They wanted this done as quickly as possible. Land was all they cared about.
I have written previously in this column about wealth. Why it is important to create wealth so that we are able to care for God’s creation. Poor people, even though majority are deeply religious, are incapable of fully worshipping God through care and concern for His creation because they are limited in resources. But wealth that breaks relationships must be avoided at all cost.
What does it profit a man if he acquires the whole world but loses his soul? How does one find a good night’s sleep after they have disinherited others or fraudulently acquired property?
A similar issue of inheritance played out before Jesus in the Bible in Luke 12: 13-15: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me,” someone in the crowd told Jesus… “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions,” Jesus answered.
Following this, in Luke 12: 16-21 Jesus narrates the parable of the rich fool who built greater barns to store his harvest. And after he had done all this, he told himself: “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat and drink and be merry”. But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” And Jesus concludes: “This is how it will be for anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
Brothers and sisters, these things don’t matter as much as we think they do. Earthly possessions have just one purpose – to help us serve God well. They are not meant for the granary or the bank account. They are not meant for show or pride. We need to acquire just enough for our daily sustenance. Don’t even worry about what you will leave behind for your children; educating them is enough inheritance. If God blesses you enough so that you have more than you need, well and good: but never let amassing of wealth become an end in itself.
And more wealth doesn’t guarantee you happiness. God alone does. So, brethren, just trust God and live one day at a time, asking for only “our daily bread.” Then pray for good health. That is all you need friends. Everything else is unnecessary bother.