22220.060 Building a Legacy

The memory of the righteous will be a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot. (Proverbs 10:7)

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. (Proverbs 22:1)

A good person leaves an inheritance for his children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous. (Proverbs 13:22)

When you learn for the first time that my name is Larry Poland, I assume nothing particularly wonderful or horrible comes to mind. You may never have met anyone named Poland before. There are no famous Polands whom I know of and none who have achieved infamy. Even research on my predecessors revealed no horse thieves on one hand and no kings or presidents on the other.

I suppose it is natural for one to think of his or her legacy with advancing years. In my case, I sat down in my twenties and wrote out a list of what I wanted to have said about me when I died. One thing was, “He was an outstanding husband and father.” Another was, “He gave his life serving his Lord and Savior.” That list, with many other components, is still the finish line for my life, my legacy.

Imagine if your name were Adolf Hitler Jr. or Osama Bin Laden Jr., or if your mother was Jezebel, Delilah, or a famous porn star? You would bear the burden of the legacy your parent left behind.

Proverbs is much more practical and blunt when talking about how we are remembered, our legacy. Proverbs 10:7 (above) says the choice is “blessing” or “rot.” The determining factor is living righteously or wickedly.

Principle: The legacy we leave behind is not measured by our bios, resumes, bank accounts, titles, possessions, or funeral eulogies. It is the essence of our character—what God says about us.

Proverbs has an interesting perspective on the relative value of wealth. If Bob Barker offered us Door A or Door B on The Price is Right TV show, how many would choose a good reputation over $500,000,000 along with having our reputation trashed? Probably not many. Yet God says a good reputation is of inestimable worth!

Principle: All the wealth in the world cannot give us a good reputation, and abject poverty cannot tarnish it. But a good reputation based on genuine righteousness can assure us of God’s blessing in wealth or poverty in this life and the life to come.

It probably doesn’t matter much if you are a daughter, grandson, or great-grandchild of Adolf Hitler. His legacy will still be a stain on your reputation that you will have to overcome. Proverbs says your children and grandchildren will be blessed or cursed by the character you possess and the way it plays out in your legacy. Think about that when temptation comes and significant moral testing faces you. The best predictor of your future legacy is the pattern of choices you are creating now.

Principle: The moral choices we make now are visited on our children and grandchildren long after we are gone. Leaving a legacy rooted in faith and obedience to Jesus Christ and His life principles will stand us in good stead regardless of the other things our progeny inherit from us.

What is your legacy? What footprint will you leave in the sands of time?

I heard of a man whose tombstone read, “He came here, he stayed here, and he left.” How sad. Apparently, his family members could not think of a single notable action or trait that would show what kind of impact this man made on the human race. What was his purpose for living?

When Jesus told the parable of the sower and the soils in Matthew 13, three of the soils upon which the Word of the kingdom fell were­ for various reasons—unproductive. But the soil that was fruitful produced a “harvest” thirty, sixty, or a hundred times what was sown! The other seed was wasted. I’ve always wanted to be a “Hundred Multiplier Person.” How about you?

You don’t have to be rich, famous, notable, outstanding, or pub­licly visible to leave a powerful legacy. Proverbs 31, which lauds an outstanding wife and mother, makes it patently clear that a “home­ maker” of character can leave an indelible impact on her family and the world—a great legacy. Conversely, a prominent world leader can leave a “rotten” legacy, one that time will reduce to refuse!

How do you want to be remembered? That’s your legacy! But it happens only by starting today making right choices, ones God applauds.

Even if you are up in years and have pretty much screwed up your life so far, there is hope. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

As the praise song explains,

Something beautiful, something good;
All my confusion He understood;
All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife,
But He made something beautiful of my life.
(Lyrics and music by Bill Gaither)