We frequently hear of people who are planning an earthly legacy of their good works as a name remembrance for others. Some legacies might be in the form of accomplishments, contributions, recognitions, or generosities all proudly and visibly displayed so that others might admire them. Other legacies simply are a tribute to the person's character, their compassion for others, their spirituality, or their selfless sacrifices for the benefit of others.
Many legacies are intended to be a long lasting memorial - insuring that earthly works or personal achievements will be remembered long after the person is gone. Legacies of that type could include substantial wealth, possessions, and properties donated to charities, or, simply passed down into the hands of heirs. Other noteworthy items of involvement perceived as lasting legacies might include a successful business, one's name prominently displayed on a marquee or permanently carved in stone as a remembrance, significant books written or music beautifully composed, or the establishment of a Foundation or Trust for those in need. The list could go on and on.
A few of those items listed certainly are noble endeavors, and can be carried out with honorable and Godly intentions. However, the motives behind many of the others would need to be questioned. All legacies are, in part, attempts to answer the question, "How do I want to be remembered?"
The legacies formed using questionable motives will most often recognize and glorify the individual as the primary focus. They desire to create some visible means of memorializing their name along with the accomplishments. They want their name, their fame, and their fortune etched in history for all to see. Those legacies seem to shout, "Look at all the good things I've done", or, "See how successful I've been", or, "Just imagine all the money I've earned in my life and I did it my way."
Sadly, many of those legacies have the wrong motives since they're all about promotion and glorification of one's self self-importance, self-image, self-achievement, and pride.
There's no doubt that most people work hard to achieve their so-called earthly success. However, there are some who inherit wealth or a "famous" business and family name that might allow them to continue a prior legacy. Also, there are many today embracing and giving praises to the popular self-help books that promote self-esteem and positive thinking for success in life, but most of those books are totally void of sound Biblical wisdom.
Some people might even give token lip service recognizing God for what He has allowed them to accomplish. However, few if any will give Him all the honor and glory, nor can they say their complete faith and trust is in the hands of the One who is in control of all things. Instead of seeking His Will and guidance through prayer and Scripture, most people depend on their own wisdom and understanding along with the help of others.
For those of us who have worked long and hard to acquire, create, and accomplish many things toward a legacy, it should be disconcerting to learn that we don't own any of it. Like it or not, God owns it all. According to Psalm 89:11, the Lord God founded the heavens and earth, and they are His and everything in them. Psalm 24:1 tells us the earth is the Lord's, and everything and everyone in it. In Haggai 2:8, the Lord is declaring that all the silver and gold is His.
God only permits us to use that which has always belonged, and will always belong, to Him. Also, we must never assume that our successes and good works are the result of God having blessed them, nor does it mean that we have followed His Will. Often times He simply allows events, both good and bad, to happen or take place to teach us and draw us closer to Him.
Sometimes we think we're pretty smart, and will often pat ourselves on the back for the new and great things we've managed to develop and accomplish. However, Ecclesiastes 1:9,10 explains that there's nothing new under the sun. In Galatians 6:3 we are told that we deceive ourselves if we think we are something when we are nothing. For the high-minded among us, we are told in Romans 12:3 not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. Also, it's written in Matthew 23:12 that whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
The words of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 6:1-4 should be seriously heeded by all who would desire public recognition for their contributions and good works.
Matthew 6:1-4 (NASB)
"Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."
Millions of people have been misled to believe they must earn God's favor through their earthly works, and that those works will play an essential role in where and how they will spend eternity. The Scriptures, however, teach something entirely different. We learn from Isaiah 64:6 that all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags in the sight of God. Those people fail to understand that all the good things they do count for nothing without first repenting and reaching out by faith alone to receive God's free gift of salvation. The Bible clearly teaches that we are saved not by good works, but rather, for good works.
Ephesians 2:8-10 (NKJV)
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Titus 3:5 (NASB)
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
Earthly treasures and riches are not long lasting as written in both Proverbs 27:24 and Matthew 6:19. In fact, according to Proverbs 11:28a, he who trusts in them will fail. We are warned in 1 Timothy 6:9-10 that those who seek worldly riches fall into temptation, becoming trapped in foolish and harmful desires causing their destruction some even wandering from their faith.
Jesus, speaking to His disciples, asked these questions as recorded in Matthew 16:26 (NASB), "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or, what will a man give in exchange for his own soul?" We are clearly told in Colossians 3:2 to keep our minds set on things above, not on the earth.
All repentant, redeemed, born again, washed-by-the-blood sons and daughters of the most high God, all who have confessed that Jesus is Lord, and all who by faith alone have received His salvation are commanded to be Christ-like in everything we do.
Jesus came down to earth to be born in the most humble of surroundings. During His 33 years here He was poor by worldly standards, but told of how we would have treasures in heaven if we choose to follow Him. Jesus never taught self-esteem, positive thinking, motivation, or wealth preservation, but rather, taught self-denial, humility, and submission. His earthly life temporarily came to an end while hanging naked, beaten, and bleeding on the cross in our place paying the sin penalty in full for all who would believe. Then, when He arose on the third day as He said he would, He proclaimed victory over death and the grave - promising all believers that they, too, would have eternal life through Him.
Jesus' life is the greatest and most powerful example of a legacy that has no equal, and it will endure forever. He alone is worthy of all the praise, honor, and glory not only for what He did and continues to do, but for Who He is.
What will be your legacy? How do you want to be remembered? Are your treasures in the form of earthly deeds and material things, or, as Jesus commanded in Matthew 6:19-20, are your treasures stored up in heaven? Is the name of Jesus publicly praised with all thanksgiving given to Him who makes all things possible, or, is His name suppressed?
He reminds us in Matthew 6:21 that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. Hebrews 4:13 has a warning that nothing can be hidden from the eyes of God. As written in Romans 14:12, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Will our life's legacy bear witness that we have loved Him, trusted Him, served Him, and have given Him the honor and glory above all else as Savior, Lord and Master of our life?
We all must think about that!
During retirement, my prayer is that I might serve the Lord by sharing the Gospel through my writing. As the Lord leads, my work will inform, challenge and encourage. I also enjoy Biblical theme woodcarving, Bible studies and Christian music. Watch, pray and keep looking up!
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