We will all leave a legacy of some sort – the question is what it will be. One dictionary definition of legacy is "something coming from the past." A legacy is something that remains after we leave this world – something that speaks of our lives. Typically we think of what ancestors leave a family when we think of this word – but it is actually much broader than that. It also refers to the effect a person had on others while he or she was alive. Politicians are concerned about their historical legacy. They want to be remembered as great statesmen, and many strive to manipulate events to "manufacture" a legacy. History books are sometimes revised to portray a different legacy than what a person actually left, and the media is constantly misrepresenting the actions and motives of individuals. Nevertheless, the true legacy of each human being is written in heaven, and the effects of each human life continue to expand and have consequences, even as a stone thrown in the water leaves concentric ripples that emanate from where it was cast.
Our legacy is a reality, and we all have one. Even the baby that dies in infancy has some effect on the family he or she was born into. Something changes with the existence of each human life – and each day we are building a legacy, whether we are aware of it or not, and whether we like it or not. Our personal lives will have ramifications on others, and as Christians we should understand this.
Will the World Be Better?
We must ask ourselves whether the world will be a better place because we have lived in it, or a worse place. The difference will be determined by whether we are living for others or only to please ourselves. A man who was brought up in a family that was not saved, spoke in a church about his father, who was not a Christian, but did believe that God existed. The father used to pray, "God, if there is anyone in need in our community, guide him to our house that we might help him." Do Christians pray in this manner, or have we lost this basic understanding? Would this unbeliever put us to shame, if we compared his heart to help others to our own? If we doubt the importance of doing good things for God, let us consider the following Scripture:
"For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men." 1Peter 2:15 (NKJV)
This should be the legacy of the Christian. But today some are worried about sounding as if they are teaching that it is through good works that we are saved. Others teach that there is nothing we can do to please God. They confuse the fact that salvation is a gift with the basic understanding that although God loves us all, He of course will take greater pleasure in us if we do the good works He has created us for. If we doubt this is why we were made, then let us review Ephesians 2:10:
"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
More importantly, without these works which build for us a favorable legacy, it is questionable if we are in the faith at all. For we also read:
"…eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness--indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." Romans 2:7-10 (NKJV)
This Scripture speaks about doing good as an integral part of our salvation. Do we really think that we can live and ignore such a command, and simply slip into social oblivion, chasing the same things the world chases, and still keep an active faith? If we think such is the case, then what do we make of the following words of Christ?
"Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit." John 15:2 (NKJV)
The point is that we are saved by grace, but our continuing in the faith depends on not just what Christ does, but what we do. These may be shocking words to read in a day when so many are preaching we do nothing and He does everything. In a way He does do everything – to the extent that without Him we can do nothing. Nevertheless that is not the complete story – we make a decision every day as to whether or not we will serve Him. And if we are serving Him, He makes it very clear that good works will be part of our lives. In fact, if we fail to do good, we are sinning for we also read in James 4:17:
"Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin."
If we take this to heart, and believe that we are not only commanded to do good works, but also we should desire to do them, our legacy will also be good. We will certainly make mistakes along the way, and mess things up regardless of our intentions, but if we desire to fulfill this command, the ultimate result will leave a legacy that cannot be hidden, for we also read:
"Some men's sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden." 1Timothy 5:24-25 (NKJV)
Still Looking Out for Number One?
What the Bible does not say, however, is that we should be looking out only for ourselves and what is always best for us. In fact, we are commanded to consider others:
"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." Philippians 2:3-4 (NKJV)
Let us understand that it is a spiritual fact that we reap what we sow. When we look out for others, God looks out for us. When we forget about ourselves, He remembers us and takes care of the details others strive for. But when we strive to save our own lives, to make everything smooth for ourselves as we disregard others, we lose His blessing. Moreover, we melt into the crowd of self-seekers. A giving life, however, is the type of life which is remembered by others – it speaks volumes of the person who lives it. The world may say it respects those who are ambitious and do well for themselves, but in eternity self-seeking and self-promotion will look ugly. The legacy that Christ left is sweetly remembered in a hymn that began as a poem by Annie Flint:
His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His power has no boundary known unto men,
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth and giveth, and giveth again.
Are we giving and giving and giving or taking and taking and taking? Are we burdened down with desires for material blessings, and blinded by those desires to the needs of others around us? If we have children, what will they say when they are grown? Many today criticize their parents for not being "good" enough to discipline them. Others are unhappy because their parents would not make the sacrifice of staying home with them. What is the extra car and the newer house worth in the final analysis? Can it be part of an everlasting legacy? Perhaps in some way it can, but it will not be the legacy we will desire when we are breathing our last breath, and begin to look back on our lives.
No One is Too Young or Too Old
Are you a student? Are you going through your classes trying to be popular so you will fit in with the crowd? Do you realize most of those around you are the future inhabitants of hell? What will be your legacy with them? But you say, I am young, and it is not time yet – and they will dislike me if I tell them the truth. God commanded a young Jeremiah to speak regardless of the response:
"Then said I: ‘Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.’ But the Lord said to me: ‘Do not say, "I am a youth," For you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,’ says the Lord." Jeremiah 1:6-8 (NKJV)
Young person, do not say to yourself He has not sent you to anyone. If you know Christ, and are living for Him, you will be sent. This is not to say that it will not cost you some so-called friends, popularity, and perhaps some invitations to places. It is not to say that you will not be treated as an outcast, as strange, and perhaps as a little joke. However, it is to say that you are making a legacy now – of some sort or another. If you are taking a stand for Christ by saying you will not participate in certain activities, a difference in the world is made for the good. When you go out of your way to help others, a diamond of a legacy is created – one that will not fade away. This does not mean that one goes willy-nilly trying to do God’s work – remember God told Jeremiah to go "to all to whom I send you." There are two oars that row the boat – zeal and wisdom. When only one is used, the boat goes nowhere but rather spins in circles – but with both wonderful progress is made. And clearly each person’s legacy, regardless of their age, is revealed in one simple way – in what they do, for we read:
"Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right." Proverbs 20:11 (NKJV)
Those concerned about having the right brand of tennis shoes but who take no thought about the souls of schoolmates will have a sad legacy. Those who chatter with the ungodly but never bring spiritual truth into a conversation, will some day be sad about their idle words.
The Legacy of Truth
The truth needs to be spoken. Truth thrives when it is repeated. It must be repeated over and over again, because the world and its system would otherwise seek to obliterate it. Truth appears more real, more powerful, and even more acceptable when it is mentioned again and again. Faith is built when truth is spoken. Walls collapse in people’s hearts when they hear of Christ over and over again – if they are at all repentant. Speaking truth is like pouring clear water on dusty dry ground. The more it is watered, the richer the soil becomes and the more conducive to growing new life. Our legacy will depend on how often and when we speak the truth. If we are always discussing worldly matters, but fail to speak lovingly about the essence of truth – Jesus Christ and His salvation, we are remiss. Should not the name of the one who is the fairest of ten thousand be on our lips? If some human being had saved us while we were drowning in the ocean, and that person gave his life that we might be rescued, would we tell no one else about it? The great cloud of witnesses are listening – are they chagrined or overjoyed when we speak?
The Legacy of Wisdom
Wisdom and truth are essentially inseparable – but wisdom is generally the implementation of truth. Wisdom is personified – meaning it is portrayed as a person in several places in the Bible. The main example is found in the eighth chapter of Proverbs:
"Does not wisdom cry out, and understanding lift up her voice? She takes her stand on the top of the high hill, beside the way, where the paths meet. She cries out by the gates, at the entry of the city, at the entrance of the doors…" Proverbs 8:1-3 (NKJV)
We as Christians should be wisdom personified. We are the people of wisdom, but we can only get it from God. Our legacy should be that we are exemplary in wisdom. God wants us to be such. He tells us clearly we should seek it, because through it we will influence the world and leave a wake of understanding. That wake may trouble the waters for some, but for others it will be seen and cherished as a path that one might follow to find eternal life. This is why wisdom is stressed so much, even as we read:
"Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding." Proverbs 4:7 (NKJV)
In Hebrew the word is "chokmah" and one of its meanings is "to be skillful, to have wisdom in administration, prudence in one’s life, to be ethical." God shows it as the key to living in the following Scriptures:
"Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding; for her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you may desire cannot compare with her. Length of days is in her right hand, in her left hand riches and honor." Proverbs 3:13-16 (NKJV)
God wants to give wisdom liberally to all who ask, but few are truly seeking this priceless gift, and if it is not sought and gained, it cannot be imparted to the world as a Christian legacy. Notice that in her right hand is length of days, which speaks of the eternal life we get when we are saved, and in her left hand are the more temporal gifts of riches and honor. Those riches have a spiritual meaning – and that is the treasure that Christ said we store up in heaven by doing His will. For in Matthew 19:21 we read, "give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven." But the poor here also represent the spiritually bankrupt – those who do not believe. If we treat them generously, and pray for them, we are giving to them. The temporal gifts of riches and honor have everlasting consequences – and in that manner they become a legacy.
The Legacy of Depth
If you are a shallow person it is simply because you choose to be one. We do not have inherent personality traits that cause us to be shallow or deep, regardless of what godless behavioral psychologists and psychiatrists may theorize. We can make a choice to live our lives as if they count, and as if other people matter. In fact, this is a choice we make every day. If we treat people differently because we think some are less important creations than others, then we are living a shallow life. If we think it does not matter what we read or listen to or watch, then we are living a shallow life. If we think like the world, cheer with the world, invest like the world, and are selfish like the world, we are living a shallow, superficial life. The deep life considers the origins and results of things; it considers the destination of those who reject God, and it considers the ramifications of individual actions. It is concerned with the heartbroken and downtrodden, and in that concern intercedes in prayer for those less fortunate. It is concerned about deep truth and ignores the veneer that paints this tawdry world. We are supposed to emulate God in having depth, and He has set the example, for as the psalmist says:
"O Lord, how great are Your works! Your thoughts are very deep." Psalm 92:5 (NKJV)
Without depth, we cannot minister to others. Without depth we cannot befriend and offer solace to those who might pour their hearts out to a bartender or a psychiatrist, neither of whom can help them even with the best of intentions. But from the deep things of God, life-changing and life-saving truth is revealed, even as we read:
"Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out." Proverbs 20:5 (NKJV)
"He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him." Daniel 2:22 (NKJV)
Protect Your Children’s Inheritance
There is a bumper sticker one sees from time to time, generally on the bumper of expensive motor homes, which says, "We’re spending our children’s inheritance." How sad that in our age of greed there are those who not only do not care about the welfare of their children and grandchildren, but even brag about it. Their selfishness runs contrary to God’s advice, where He says:
"A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children…" Proverbs 13:22 (NKJV)
One might conclude from this Scripture that it is important to hoard money to give to the next generation – but that would be a carnal interpretation of what God is trying to tell us. The inheritance that God wants us to leave is spiritual. And it does not only refer to those who have physical children. Paul was a father to many spiritually. Children who are influencing others for Christ leave an inheritance when they pray for them. Every act we do for others leaves the fragrance of Christ in the air – and that fragrance has a spiritual influence beyond our understanding. As our lives slip through our fingers, never to be repeated, shall we not seek to do what we can while we are here – for others?
What are We Doing?
If we are training our children in sports but not the Bible; if we get great pride over having a fancy car and want others to envy us; if we dress so that others will desire us; if we allow our children to dress provocatively – let us consider the legacy. If we are spending all we have and ignoring tithing and offerings; if we are glued to the television set lusting over pretty people; if we
are angry at certain people and they know it – let us consider the legacy. If we do not value people the way God does; if we consider ourselves better than others; if we have no time to listen to other people’s problems – let us consider our legacy. Young or old, for a moment let us pretend we are looking back on our lives. What will our friends, neighbors, enemies, children, parents, and others say about us? Whatever we conclude, the wonderful news is this – as long as we are still on this planet it is not too late to improve our legacy.