Pastoral Perspectives

What Legacy Are You Leaving Behind?

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “legacy?” Legacy is something that is, or can be, inherited from your forefathers. There are certain traditions, customs or mannerisms that are passed from one generation to another. People leave behind all sorts of legacies…legacies of faith, fruitfulness, family, and friendship – memories that we like to remember. Others leave legacies of folly, foolishness, or falsehood– these are legacies we would just as soon forget! Your life will result in a legacy, and you have a choice whether it will be a positive one or a negative one. Your legacy will be a failure if you have lived for yourself or for the things that don’t last.

Warren BuffettBill Gates and Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar are some of the notable billionaires who have pledged their entire fortunes to charity. Buffett is an especially staunch opponent of what he calls “dynastic wealth” (wealth that is so vast it creates generational dynasties). Buffett refers to anyone who grew up wealthy as a “member of the lucky sperm club” and he firmly believes that if his children work hard enough they can achieve great success the same way he did.

So what is a legacy? Have you ever received a legacy from someone? And why is having one to pass on so important? Now I want you to think about what you want your legacy to be? How do you want to be remembered by your children? What do you want to pass on to them? What do you want to leave behind? What do you want people to say about you twenty-five years from now?

Leaving a godly legacy for your children should be the goal of all Christian parenting.  Although the faith and godliness of your children is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit, God often uses the influence of parents to make a great impact on their children. A great example of this is Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan Preacher from the 1700s.  Jonathan and his wife Sarah left a great godly legacy for his 11 children. At the turn of the 20th century, American educator and pastor A.E. Winship decided to trace out the descendants of Jonathan Edwards almost 150 years after his death.  His findings are astounding, especially when compared to a man known as Max Jukes.  Jukes’ legacy came to the forefront when the family trees of 42 different men in the New York prison system traced back to him. Jonathan Edwards’ godly legacy includes:

1 U.S. Vice-President,
3 U.S. Senators,
3 governors,
3 mayors,
13 college presidents,
30 judges,
65 professors,
80 public office holders,
100 lawyers and
100 missionaries.

Max Jukes’ descendants included:

7 murderers,
60 thieves,
50 women of debauchery,
130 other convicts.
310 paupers (with over 2,300 years lived in poorhouses)
400 who were physically wrecked by indulgent living.

It was estimated that Max Juke’s descendants cost the state more than $1,250,000.

This is a powerful example showing how a parent’s leadership can have a profound effect on their children. David tells us in Psalm 127:3-4, “Sons are a heritage from the lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate. Children are an heritage of the Lord.” Someone has said that a godly legacy can be partially measured by the character of the descendants who have been spiritually influenced by a person’s life.

Dennis Rainey the founder of Family Life states that, “Our children are living messages we send to a time and place we will never see.” Paul considered his converts to be “letters” from Christ that were to be read by others. (II Corinthians 3:2-3) “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, know and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

The legacy you leave is determined by the life you live. Your life is a statement of your true values. If you want people to remember you as an honest person, you can’t live as a liar and a deceiver. Joel 1:3 “Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.” You are encouraged by these scriptures to share with your children the great things God has done in your life. If God has blessed you and shown himself real in your life, you have a story to tell. Each person has a unique testimony and a living message that reveals God’s ways and His character. You need to recapture and preserve this ancient tradition of verbally passing on your stories to the coming generations.

If we want our children to love the Lord, We must first love the Lord. If we want our children to have the Word of God in their hearts, We must first have the word of God in our hearts. A continual “living” seminar should flow out of our lives to our children. We are to pass on a way of life by honoring God and His ways in every aspect of our daily living. We need to be purposeful, as I mentioned previously. We need to be diligent. We need to be consistent, and we need to be tireless. We are not called to pass on religious instruction to our children. We are called to pass on the reality of a living relationship with a living God. We are called to pass on godly values to our children. Those values need to be anchored in God’s character and anchored in the truths expressed in the Bible. (Deuteronomy 6:4 – 9)

No matter what heritage you were handed through your earthly family, God has given you an inheritance in heaven that is imperishable. It is kept for you there and no thief can steal it and no rust can destroy it. (I Peter 1:4) May God make you a godly example of the values you want to pass on and bless the memory people will have of you in the coming generation.