What is your legacy? When people think of you long after you’re gone, what is it that they will remember you for? We all leave a legacy behind for our children, grandchildren, and their children’s children. And whether we realize it or not, our reputation and the results of how we have lived–the memory of what we have done, whether good or bad–or of what we have correspondingly failed to do, affect and influence the lives of those who remain.
“But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey his precepts.” (Psalm 103:17-18 NIV)
Any kind of positive human accomplishment generates blessings that rub off on the children and grandchildren of the people who do them. Think about the progeny of presidents and other political figures, or of famous scientists, musicians, doctors, architects, writers, or any other worthwhile field of endeavor. Their offspring benefit not only from the financial gain their parent’s accomplishments have generated for the family, but also from the influence of the life habits and attitudes that particular individual possesses that assisted him or her in accomplishing something worthwhile in the first place.
Yet, as admirable as human accomplishment is, Jesus teaches that the primary focus of our lives ought to be God and His purposes:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV)
This does not mean that we must all study for the ministry, but it does mean that while we need to be gainfully employed to provide for ourselves and our families and ought to work faithfully and heartily at it, there is another legacy we should leave our families–a godly one. The example they should remember long after we are gone is that we consistently chose righteous living over sin, loving others over hate, forgiving over holding grudges. They should be able to remember that whenever there was a choice, we did what was right, not what was wrong, even if it cost us personally. Most importantly, we should leave the legacy of having been someone who truly belonged to Christ–as an example to follow, certainly, but also as a precious hope of someday being reunited with our loved ones who know Him too.
The children of the ungodly, on the other hand, suffer a different type of legacy. Certainly, they miss out on the monetary benefits a life of wisdom typically provides–not necessarily great wealth, but the security that those who avoid foolish and sinful behaviors benefit from. Yet beyond that, those who turn away from Christ leave their children an example of rebellion against their Creator and Savior, a legacy of God’s wrath against the unrepentant: a mold from which while not impossible for God, it is nonetheless humanly speaking more difficult to break out of.
“…the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7 NIV)
So, what is your legacy? How will your children remember you when you are gone? Will it be as someone who lived a life storing up treasures on earth, which don’t last and matter nothing for eternity? Or will it be as a person wise enough to spend the preponderance of his lifetime leaving an eternal legacy?
Help me leave my children and their children a legacy of righteousness, an example of obedience to You that they might follow as well as a hope of reunion after my time here is over. Give them Your Spirit that they might not scorn You, but be born again and believe in You. Amen.