WHAT IS LEGACY?

A good friend recently asked me in a phone conversation if I had any Bible references about legacy. She was leading a break-out session at a conference and wanted to include Scripture in the discussion. I couldn’t think of anything off the top of my head, but I’ve been thinking about the subject since we talked.

One of the first things I did was look up the word in the dictionary and found that the first definition of legacy is “a gift by will especially of money or other personal property.” I knew passing on wealth was a part of legacy, but didn’t think of legacy as only, or even primarily, about it. When I consulted two Christian authors I was surprised—and disappointed–to note how much they wrote about money and wealth in their discussion of legacy.

Two and a half years ago when I stepped down after 30 years as pastor of Discovery Christian Church, I was honored by the theme promoted for my last Sunday “Celebrating a Legacy.” I can assure you the church body was not celebrating any financial gift I was giving as I left!

My preferred understanding of legacy is the second part of the definition as “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” And the reality is what is transmitted or received can be either good or bad. The definition gives the illustration of a negative: “The war left a legacy of pain and suffering.” I’m confident all of us are aware of situations in which people have been hurt by damaging legacies passed on to them.

There are also many illustrations and avenues of positive and good legacies transmitted and received. I love the report of author Dave Ramsey who wrote “My grandfather left me an inheritance of character and wonderful memories.” I also appreciate his usage of the word inheritance to refer to something other than money and wealth. Perhaps we should remind ourselves that all of us are leaving and are going to leave a legacy. While wealth, education, and job or career are factors, legacy is about so much more.

To me, the most important aspect of a good legacy transmitted and received by those who follow is a person’s example. For the most part, one’s example is unintentional and far reaching. There will no doubt be some specifics that stand out to those impacted by our legacy, but there will also be innumerable incidents that don’t stand out, but have an accumulated impact.

Drawing from Ramsey’s comment, more than money and wealth, our most important legacy is about our character. And our character is shown by things such as how we treat others (including family, friends, strangers, those in need, our critics, and our enemies), how we respond to our mistakes (admitting and learning from them or denying and repeating them), and how we deal with problems. Again, in my mind, it’s about our example.

Understandably, we usually don’t think much about legacy until we realize we are getting older. Then, of course, we can’t go back and do it all over. What we can do, however, is use the realization to become more intentional from then on.

Jan and I moved to Texas in December to be closer to and more involved with our two grandsons. Interestingly enough, our home in Texas (not the one pictured above) is on Legacy Parkway. Is that prophetic for Jan and me?

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4 thoughts on “WHAT IS LEGACY?

  1. Good stuff. You have just given me the introduction to sermon #4 in my next sermon series; “One Month to Love: Journey to a No Regrets Life.” The topic is “Leave a Legacy.” If I promise to give you (and Dave Ramsey) credit, can I use some of your excellent thoughts on legacy? Cool story about the street.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve come to the same conclusion…..Lord only knows what we will “leave behind” as a legacy… and character, integrity and wisdom are priceless regardless of your financial situation when the Lord calls us home. I would rather leave a legacy that is perpetual….in hopes that my son’s and daughter in laws could continue this gift to leave to others…. that would truly be the best legacy I could ever leave… knowing that all good things come from the Lord and the gift/legacy he gave us in his son Jesus Christ was truly the greatest gift of all…. take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a great post. I quite agree that legacy is more than physical wealth.

    For instance, when our mum passed on to glory two years ago, all my siblings and I came to the conclusion that the greatest legacy she passed to us was pointing all of to the Way of Christ. To me, that’s worth more than tangible wealth.

    Happy stay at Legacy Park

    Liked by 1 person

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