What Is Your Legacy?

Tombstone of General John Pershing at Arlington Cemetary
>Photo taken by flickr user dbking

For all of us who get to be leaders, it is an incredible opportunity to do one’s best. Everything shall be judged by history.

~ Dr.Vaira Vike-Freiberga, President of the Republic of Latvia from 1999 to 2007

You may have noticed a theme about legacy over the past year or two, and that is not by accident.  It was never far from my mind before, but the past two years has brought it to mind even more.  4 October was the anniversary of my father’s death, and so much of what I believed before has been reinforced in a very practical and visible way.  It is one thing for a concept or two to be theoretical, but it can be a very different feeling to actually experience it.

Often, we say we should not be judged by others, and to an extent that is true.  However, others can often be a mirror to things we do not like in ourselves.  Furthermore, we don’t have an option but to love and attempt to get along peaceably as much as is reasonable with others.  Furthermore, we can either turn people on or turn them off to parts of our message and what we stand for by our actions, our leadership and our speech.  We can be a good example, or we can be a cause of offense.  If nothing else, we will impact someone in our lives, and that will often be children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and others of younger generations.  The question we all need to be asking is: What type of legacy will we leave?

My mother died in 2002.  She was a quiet woman who worked for years as a secretary for Miami University.  She was no one of great stature, great wealth, great physical strength or even one of the movers and shakers on campus.

Her memorial was held in the small campus chapel.  It was small, but I’m sure most of our congregations these days would have no problem fitting into it.  Of course, the family had the first row on each side.  When I got up to say something, I couldn’t help but notice that the place was packed.

My mother had an influence that could not be seen with the eye, was not written up in the newspapers, never made headlines on the evening news nor was it even the subject of any student newsletter.  Yet, she touched lives.  She did it one by one, the old fashioned way, the personal way and the way that had the most impact.

What will my legacy be?  What will yours be?  Do we think about that as we interact with others each day?  Do we pray about it?  Do we wish to leave a legacy for the next generation?

There are numerous Scriptures that talk about teaching the next generation.  I have written about them before.  Can you find them?  Do you know what they say?  Do you understand they are talking about leaving a legacy?

22 A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.

~ Pr 13:22

A good man, aka a righteous human being, will do all he or she can do to not just last one generation but two!  However, the sinner’s wealth will be squandered, and eventually it will find its way back to the righteous.  If this is overall true for physical wealth, how much more is a truth for spiritual things?

Which is longer lasting, anyhow?  Where is our treasure being stored (Mt 6:19-21)?

It’s important, too, to realize that our legacy begins a long time before we die.  The difference is that while we are alive, it is called a “reputation”.  So, ask yourself that if you were to die tomorrow, “What Would Be In Your Mom’s Letter?” if she left one to be read at her funeral.  Obviously, we influence our own children while we yet live as well.

Good people live right,
and God blesses the children
who follow their example.

Pr 20:7 (CEV)

The nice thing about a reputation is that time and effort can improve it.  However, even after a time of purifying and refining, we can still leave a “Legacy of Bitterness“.  Sometimes, as they say, there can be too much water under the bridge to fully rebuild a relationship.

There also is a saying that such-and-such is not written in stone.  However, stone can be erased, sanded or even broken.  What heals a heart that has been broken by words?  What heals the anger by a child abused or neglected?  Sometimes, scars are left after other healing has occurred.

Spiritually, we can put ourselves in danger by our words and actions (or lack thereof) as well.

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Mt 18:6

These words are in red in some Bibles!  They should be sobering words for true believers everywhere.

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