A legacy is what you leave behind when you leave. It is what people will remember about you after you have gone—it’s not something we think about all the time. But I did want to talk about this question: What legacy will you leave behind?
You want to live a long time—maybe until you turn 100—but the question remains: What are you going to leave behind? What will others say about you? Nobel Prize-winner Martin Luther King Jnr, who died in 1968, was once asked, What do you want us to say about you at your funeral? He said he didn’t want a long funeral and no long speeches. No mention of his 400 awards—that’s not important. “Tell them I tried to give my life serving others. I tried to feed the hungry”. His name and legacy does live on—no doubt about that.
Sir Nicholas Winton was a stockbroker in 1938 when Hitler’s troops began to march into Czechoslovakia. He knew that something evil was going on. He quit his job as a stockbroker and began to charter trains, raise money, and transport Jewish children out of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia and Poland. Because of him, 699 Jewish children escaped what would have been imminent death in Nazi prison camps. Vera Gissing, one of the 699 children who escaped said: “He did not only save 699, he saved a generation. We have had children and grandchildren. Because of him, there are about 7,000 of us alive.” That’s a real life legacy.
Leave a Godly Legacy
How obvious is it that life has a meaning—and that we need to discover the meaning for ourselves? And when we die, everything we owned or did becomes useless unless it brought value and joy to others. So, your legacy is all that really matters in the end. Did you help others? Did you give encouragement and hope to others? It’s not really about money—it’s more than that. It’s surely not just to have an enormous wealth of experiences—but it’s to have time, energy and resources to give something of yourself back to others.
If you have a family, I guess you want to leave good memories for your children and grandchildren—will you be remembered as a genuine, kind, caring and generous person? I think as we get older we need to make a conscious decision to love others unconditionally—it is so important, because we don’t know how many years God will give us to live. Hopefully it will be long.
Do we have convictions and beliefs that matter? It was Thomas Carlyle who said, “Conviction is worthless until it can convert itself into daily conduct”. Hero of the 19th century was David Livingstone, the great missionary and explorer. His life was an inspiration. He once said, “I will go anywhere as long as it is forward”. There is no doubt about his wonderful legacy. The eminent psychologist Erik Erikson used to say, “I am what survives of me”.
I like what the Bible says about legacy. In Psalm 112:1-2 (CEV) we read this:
The Lord blesses everyone
who worships him and gladly
obeys his teachings.
Their descendants will have
great power in the land,
because the Lord blesses
all who do right.
Verse 3 adds: “They…will always be remembered for their fairness.” and verse 4 says: “They will be so kind and merciful and good, that they will be a light in the dark for others who do the right thing”. Proverbs 10:7 (CEV) says, “Good people are remembered long after they are gone; but the wicked are soon forgotten”.
The old saying is true, You can’t take it with you when you die. When our lives come to an end, it won’t matter how much was in the bank, or how many cars we owned, or how big our houses were, or whether we could afford to eat out in the best restaurants—it will be, What impact did I make on the lives of people who God brought across my path?
To leave a godly legacy, we must focus on living life God’s way. Someone has wisely said, The test of your leadership is not while you are living. It comes after you are gone. Then what will people do with what you gave them? The way we live now and the choices we make today affect those around us. Our legacies live on the lives of others. Proverbs 22:1 (CEV) says, “A good reputation and respect are worth much more than silver and gold”.
I think of the great people of the New Testament who died tragically because of their faith and belief. Many of Jesus followers did—e.g. the Apostle Peter who was crucified upside down. He felt he was not good enough to die as Jesus did. Paul the Apostle was beheaded outside the city of Rome. Their legacies are very clear, and inspirational, because they lived for Jesus Christ. They lived for his glory, not their own.