In the end, I discovered that my father was right when it came to things of character. My mother was the one who passed it on to us. I can’t tell you how many times I heard her say this:
There are two things that tell the character of a person:
settling an estate or building a line fence.
My father had no doubt seen his share of squabbling over line fences, for he was a surveyor and was sometimes called upon to settle disputes. In addition, as a man who served as an executor of many estates, I suppose he had seen and heard it all.
Perhaps that is why he felt so strongly that a person’s true character is shown when it comes to working out differences in our property, our possessions, and our money.
Character in Action
When a fence is put between two properties, there’s always a concern for the right-of-way and who gets which corner so that all is fair. Each party looks out for his interests more than the interests of the other side. That’s our human (sinful) nature.
When it’s time to settle an estate, it matters not so much how things are written in the will to be divided out. What is more important is how we respond when we think things aren’t quite fair. Unfortunately, most times we’re just selfish enough to keep harboring what we should maybe let go. Sometimes we’re just selfish enough that we don’t consider the other side of the estate.
When it’s time to build a line fence, it matters more that those on the other side of the fence don’t have to fight to get a right-of-way. It matters more how the folks on the other side of the fence might be feeling.
Our Role Model
For the Christian, there are some things to consider because our role model is not our friend or an attorney. Our role model is not our neighbor or our legal counsel.
Our role model is Jesus. The same person Who talked about daily cross-taking to follow Him. The same God Who said we should, as much as possible, be at peace with each other. The same Savior Who gave up His rights so that we can have eternal life. The same person Who said that first, we are to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Much as we’d like to pass it on to our kids, much as we’d like to keep it in the family when all is said and done, there will be no titles or heirloom pieces in Heaven. We won’t be able to take it with us, so let’s make certain the way we’ve obtained it – whether it’s our inheritance or our line fence – is good, honest, fair, and true.
The Importance of Character
Today, there are families the world over who have developed a rift over the settling of an estate. They miss out on sharing holidays and family reunions. They miss out on seeing grandchildren or nieces and nephews grow up. They miss out on comradery, all because of the response of one side (or both sides) to the Will or the settling of an estate. Sometimes the rift that occurred in the first generation is carried on to the next, and the grudge is maintained. The chasm is wider and the next generation doesn’t even know what the rift was about, yet in loyalty, they carry on the rift.
There are neighbors who aren’t speaking to each other because of a line fence. Walls are built, stones are thrown, and the cold and silence become deeper and stronger. Hatred spews out, and sometimes there is violence. Is it really worth that pain to be so right?!
When we settle an estate or build a line fence, what really shows is not so much the possessions we inherit or the line on the farm. What shows is the character of those who settled the estate and of those who have built that fence.
What does your line fence say to others about your character?
What does the way you’ve settled an estate tell your family about your love for Jesus?