At some point in our lives, we start thinking about our family legacy. What is the mark we will leave on the world? How will we impact the people we meet and those we leave behind? No matter how young you are, it’s never too soon to ask the question, “What is your legacy?”
As Christians, we need to think about the mark we’re leaving on those who come in contact with us and no one is closer to us than our families. What family legacies are we creating?
What is a Family Legacy?
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The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines legacy as something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past. But too often we focus on the monetary or tangible elements of a person’s behest.
A family legacy goes beyond the tangible gifts that are transmitted from one generation to the next. It considers things like:
- The emotional legacy: does your family have a history of caring for each other and the people they come in contact with? Or are they the kind of people you want to avoid especially if you don’t want to end up with emotional scars?
- An ethical legacy: what does your family stand for? Are you morals in the right place? Or do you have a history (and a habit) of doing things that displease God?
- A spiritual legacy: is the faith of your family one that will be talked about and emulated throughout the ages? Or are you still trying to figure out what it means to serve God and how to serve Him?
I didn’t start this conversation about family legacies with you to make you feel bad. Quite the contrary, I started it because I want you to think about what you’ve inherited from your ancestors and what you want to pass on to the next.
The importance of family legacies
Family legacies are important. They affect how each member of the family thinks about themselves and impacts their actions. A family legacy can even impact the way a person relates to someone else
Let’s think about it for a second. Think about some of the people you know and how the experience they had within their family impacted behavior. All of us are impacted by the people closest to us. Either we will model their behavior or we will go in the opposite direction.
Of course, I’m being a little bit dramatic here because there are nuances of behavior and there will be many people who fall between the two extremes but I hope you get the point.
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Family Legacies in the Bible
There are many examples of family legacies in the Bible so let’s look at two of the more popular ones.
Abraham’s family legacy
one of the things that stood out in the narrative of Abraham’s life is the lie he told repeatedly that Sarah his wife was actually his sister (Genesis12:11-20, 20:1-18). While it was wasn’t a complete lie, it resulted in Sarah being taken on at least one occasion by a man who thought she was beautiful and probably wanted to add her to his harem (Genesis 12:14-15).
We later see this mistake being repeated by his son Isaac (Genesis 26:1-11). Years later, we see the legacy of lies and deception wreaking havoc in this family:
- Jacob deceives his brother and steals his blessing (Genesis 27:1-29)
- Joseph’s brothers sell him to slave traders and lie about what happened to their father (Genesis 37:12-36)
But there is also a positive family legacy associated with Abraham:
- His faith: Abraham faithfully obeyed God and his obedience was counted as righteousness (Hebrews 11:8-10)
David’s family legacy
David also had a long-lasting family legacy. He was one of the greatest kings who ever lived. He was also:
- The father of a rapist
- The father of a murderer
- The father of a daughter who was raped by her brother, his son.
How is it that this great king, this warrior who won hundreds of battles had such an out-of-control family?
David may have been a great warrior but he did not always model the kind of behavior that would create good core values in his children.
He was a polygamist. This trait was passed on to his sons. It was such a pronounced trait that Solomon, the son who succeeded him to the throne, was drawn into idolatry by his many foreign wives.
He did not discipline when necessary. We saw this in his relationship with Joab. David knew that Joab had done things that he should not have, which included murdering Abner (2 Samuel 3:22-39), but he did nothing to punish Joab for it. Later, Joab also murdered Amasa and was again allowed to go without punishment (2 Samuel 20:4-13).
David’s unwillingness to discipline also showed in his relationship with his sons as neither Amnon, Adonijah nor Absalom were chastised when necessary.
Related: 5 Powerful Lessons from King David
At the same time, David is the man that God calls the “man after His own heart”. This was because he had a heart that constantly sought after the Lord. He cried out to Him when he needed help, he praised Him at all times.
From David, we learn that discipline is an important part of raising our children as a lack of discipline leads to ruin. We learn that our actions are a critical part of the legacy that we will leave for our children.
Like Abraham, David’s family legacy was not solely defined by his actions. Because of his faithfulness, David’s family legacy is also defined by his relationship with God.
The family legacies of these two men permeate the Bible from Old Testament to New. They become even more powerful when you consider how God has interwoven them into His story and legacy.
Abraham, David, and all their descendants are part of God’s legacy. They form the backbone of the inheritance that has been given to all people through Jesus Christ.
What Kind of Legacy Should We Pass On?
From a worldly perspective, we are taught that we need to give our children a good foundation. This usually means that we should give them the best education we can afford so that they can join the workforce and be productive members. Our children should then grow up to be adults who work hard so that they can afford their mortgage, car note, and expensive prep school fees.
With the focus on the material is it any wonder then that more and more people are becoming disillusioned with this lifestyle?
As Christians, we have to ask ourselves another question: “Is this what God intended?” To find the answer to this question, let’s go back to the beginning of time:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). After six days of creative genius, God says, “Let us make man in our own image” (Genesis 1:26). Immediately after making man, God put him in the garden and gave him a job. Adam was to tend the garden. Now I’m sure at that time there wasn’t a lot of tending to do, but God wanted mankind to have the responsibility of being a steward for something. God gave Adam the awesome job of naming all the animals.
During that process, God remarked that Adam was lonely and so he created a helpmeet – an ezer – for him. An ezer was someone who would be a strong supporter of Adam.
If we look at the example of the Garden of Eden, we learn that God wanted mankind to have a legacy of:
- Faithful stewardship
- Intimacy with him
- Intimacy with fellow man
Long after humanity had sinned, God had this to say in Micah 6:8:
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
God’s requirements did not change with sin. God still expected mankind to take care of what he had, foster good relationships with the people around him, and have a personal relationship with his Creator.
10 family legacies to consider passing on
What is the legacy of your family? Does your family even have a legacy? The great news is that it’s not too late to begin creating one.
- A strong family altar
- A habit of Bible study
- Faith in God
- Honesty and integrity
- Faithful stewardship
- Making quality family time a priority
- Pursuing dreams (and supporting the dreams of family members)
- Generosity to others
- Forging strong happy marriages
- Choosing joy
How Do You Develop a Family Legacy?
Normally when we think about our legacy, we think about tangible things – how much money, property, or goods we are leaving for our heirs. But what about those things that we cannot see?
For example, are we passing on a legacy of poverty to our children? Have we taught them that it’s okay to live for the moment without any thought to the future?
As you begin the process of trying to create a family legacy, here are three questions to ask yourself:
1. What does your family stand for now? Make a list of the things that your family does that you’re proud of? Do they have a reputation for something that you’d like to add to? For example, are the members of your family known for their honesty or their generosity?
Related: 7 Signs of a Person of Integrity
2. What would you like your family to be known for? Imagine your ancestors 100 years in the future. What would you like to be your family culture?
3. What steps can you take now to begin creating the family legacy of your dream? What actions do you need to do to start creating those habits for each of the attributes you want your family to be known for?
How to pass on your legacy
If we are going to influence the world, we need to have an idea of how we can leave our mark on the world. Here are a few steps you can follow as you try to pass on your legacy:
Figure It Out Your Legacy
What will your legacy be? The first thing we have to do is decide what our core values are. What are those things that are important to us that we will not compromise on? Is it family? Trust? Integrity?
After you figure out your core values, you need to decide what they look like in real life. For example, if trust is a core value it may mean that you never tell a lie, not even in jest.
Share Your Legacy
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. A critical part of passing on a legacy involves repetition. As parents, we repeat the things we want our children to remember. We learned this technique from our Heavenly Father who uses His word to communicate the things that are important to him.
Of course, we’re not going to say things like, “My core value is trust so your core value must also be trust.” (Unless of course, that’s how you usually talk). What you may say instead is something like, “Honesty is the best policy.” You may create your own mantra, or use a proverb.
One of the phrases my son hears a lot is:
“Every tub haffi siddung pon dem owna battam.” (Basically, this means “Every tub has to rest on its own base”.)
We’re trying to teach him that everyone will at some point be judged for their own actions. We do this because we want to teach him responsibility and accountability.
Live Your Legacy
Talking about your core values is effective but not as effective as living them. We have to practice actions that line up with what we believe. We can’t say that trust is important and not be trustworthy.
What is your legacy? What legacy are you leaving for your children? What do you want them to adopt from you as their core values?
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