Walk through any cemetery and glance at the dates that surround you. Many tombstones speak of an individual who lived before computers, cars, or indoor plumbing existed. In my hometown of Franklin, Tennessee, we have a cemetery in which many soldiers from the Civil War are buried. Many of these soldiers have been dead for close to 150 years. Consider for a moment that aside from these pieces of granite or marble, there are relatively few “material” possessions from these soldiers still in existence.

So what did these men of previous generations leave behind? Simply put, every single one of them left behind some type of legacy. Americans spend an enormous amount of time amassing “material” things—so we certainly don’t like to think about the very real fact that one day, all of it will be gone. Our cars will rust and probably be recycled into future material. Our homes will decay and one day be replaced. Our stocks, clothes, and electronics will be things of the past. The only thing that will be passed into the future will be our legacy. While we draft up wills in consideration of where our earthly possessions will go, we don’t give much thought about passing along a living legacy.

Here’s what I intend to teach my children on their legacy.

When I die, each one of you will receive some of my physical possessions. While I hope those goods help you in your future walks of life, my prayer is that you will treasure the spiritual training that your mom and I passed on even more than the material things. I have shared with each of you that my greatest desire is to see you in Heaven—for you to marry strong Christians and rear future generations of Christians. For you see, this will be my legacy.

This is what I will be passing down to generations I will never live to see. Consider how it would feel if you knew someone back in 1912 was working diligently to make sure you remained faithful to God. That is a unique feeling and one you may struggle to truly grasp. My prayer is that you will look into the future and consider what you can do to ensure future generations of Harrubs will be faithful. The reality is in 100 years people will not care what your career was—and more than likely you will be forgotten. But your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will still be affecting the world. Start thinking now about what your legacy will be. Maybe for you it will be 100 years of no unfaithfulness to God in your lineage. Or maybe your legacy will be 100 years without divorce or alcoholic beverages. The point is you need to consider what your legacy will be, and then start working diligently, with passion and perseverance, toward that goal (Proverbs 16:3).

One of the greatest blessings in the Bible was given to a family that held to a family legacy of no alcoholic beverages. In Jeremiah 35 we learn about the Rechabites. The Rechabites were the descendants of Rechab through Jonadab (or Jehonadab). This special family belonged to the Kenites who accompanied the children of Israel into the Promised Land and dwelt among them. We know for instance Moses married a Kenite wife (Judges 1:16).

In Jeremiah 35 the descendants of Jonadab are offered wine. We find their response in verse 6: “But they said, ‘We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, “You shall drink no wine, you nor your sons, forever.’” Because of their obedience, this family receives one of the strongest blessings in the Bible. And Jeremiah said to the house of the Rechabites, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Because you have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts and done according to all that he commanded you,’ therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not lack a man to stand before Me forever’ ” (Jeremiah 35:18-19, emp. added).

My children, this is a legacy! This blessing is worth far more than any material possession I can pass along to you. The reality is we will all leave behind a legacy. I pray that your legacy will be seen through future generations of faithful Christians. Always remember Judges 2:10, “When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel.” Hopefully your children will grow to be future elders, preachers, and Christian homemakers.

Consider the words of the inspired psalmist: “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. You shall keep them, O Lord, You shall preserve them from this generation forever” (Psalm 12:6-7). Now if we can just figure out who gets my collection of ball caps when I’m gone.

By Brad Harrub, Ph.D.