The term “legacy” isn’t going away any time soon. It became a fixture of my own vocabulary in 2001, when I joined the team of a non-profit named Leaders Legacy. Since then, it seems just about everyone has jumped on the legacy bandwagon. We hear about it on TV and radio, online, and many businesses have made it a focal point for their planning.
Despite living in times that encourage a right-now, gotta-have-it-immediately mindset, there’s a growing awareness of the need for a longer term view, that what we do and say today can live on many years after we’ve checked out of this life.
Maybe it’s a Baby Boomer thing, members of a generation aging and wondering whether they’ve made any difference at all in this world. I heard legacy discussed again recently when Mart Green, board chair of Hobby Lobby, spoke at a local leadership prayer breakfast.
Legacy has been defined, Green said, as “something transmitted, or received by others.” He elaborated that one’s legacy consists of “something someone’s achieved that continues to live on after they die.” He likened it to passing a baton during a foot race. A relay team can have a big lead, but if the baton fails to pass from one runner to the next, all is lost.
One’s legacy can come in many forms, including success in the workplace, fame, or contributions to society. Some people regard their estate or net worth at their time of death as their legacy. But many successful business people, celebrities, and wealthy individuals from decades or centuries ago aren’t even dim memories today.
So how do we build a lasting, meaningful legacy? Dr. Billy Graham, who surely left a legacy that figures to continue for a long, long time, offered this view: “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”
Simply put, but it says a lot. Proverbs 10:7 seems to agree: “The memory of the righteous will be a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.” If that sounds too blunt, consider Proverbs 13:9: “The light of the righteous shines brightly, but the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out.”
Lots of people may come to mind that are remembered for unsavory reasons, but who designs to do that? We all hope to leave a mark in life for positive reasons, don’t we? That’s why striving to build an eternal, spiritual legacy is wise.
The Israelites – and all of God’s people today – were given this admonition: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7).
One of the greatest investments we can make isn’t measured by dollar signs. It’s our children and the kind of people we’ve helped them become. As Proverbs 17:6 states, “Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.” But the Scriptures make clear that physical offspring aren’t the only source of an enduring legacy. Spiritual children can be as well.
Years ago a friend showed me a special verse, Isaiah 43:4, in which God tells His followers, “Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life.” Sounds like a fair trade to me.
And 2 Timothy 2:2 gives a multi-generational picture of what this looks like. “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will also be qualified to teach others.” That, from the Lord’s point of view, is a legacy that matters.
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly re-published, “Business At Its Best,” “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. To read more of Bob Tamasy’s writings, you can visit his blog,
. He can be emailed at email@example.com.