By Jim Mettenbrink
Occasionally in the last term of a president, news media remark about the president’s legacy. Leaders want to leave a good name via some good they have done for their constituency. In some ways the memorial of legacy is superficial––buildings, parks, and streets bearing their names. One man even built a monument to himself at the driveway to his property. How long will that last when he dies and his property is sold?
Occasionally, when I did something wrong, Grandpa would say, “You came into this world with nothing and were given your name. When you die, all you have will be sold or given away and soon forgotten. Your name will be left too, but it can’t be sold. If your name is no good, you don’t have anything good.” Grandpa’s comment was about the real legacy of a man––his personal honor, the lasting memory of his character. How you view your “name” is a very important preparation for your earthly life as well as your eternal life.
Although Grandpa never said much about what he did, in a couple instances someone related a story/incident/etc. Six years after Grandpa died, a elderly stranger approached me at a farm equipment exposition in central Nebraska. He asked,” Are you related to Charlie Mettenbrink?” Confirming I was his grandson, he recalled that in the 1930s and 1940s, Grandpa would go to western Nebraska to buy cattle. Upon hearing his name, the auctioneer would tell him to load ‘em up and take ‘em home. When Grandpa returned home, he had the bank send the money. The man remarked he bought the cattle on his name…and a handshake.
However, Grandpa told me a several times about a couple incidents that actually reflect his sense of being honorable. It has been said, “Every man has his price.” In other words, every man can be bought, but is it so? When a county commissioner died, the other commissioners asked Grandpa to fill out the rest of the man’s term. Grandpa’s responsibility was county roads and bridges. Someone anonymously informed him that the county was not getting the amount gravel being purchased. So, Grandpa climbed a tree near the road near the gravel pit and watched the trucks passed by. Indeed, the county was being cheated and in turn filed suit. Regarding the gravel company, Grandpa said, “They tried to buy me, but they couldn’t buy me.”
Grandpa and several other men established a bank in the 1920s. The bank was a victim of bank closings of the early 1930s. What about the depositors’ accounts? There was no FDIC. Grandpa told me he paid all of the depositors from his own pocket. Not one lost their money. Every time someone mentions bankruptcy, or a report is made that someone walked away from his overdue rent or mortgage, it calls to mind Grandpa’s sense of honor. He wanted his name to be good.
How does God see a man’s name? “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold” (Proverbs 22:1). You are given a name, but the honor of that name depends on you. The proverb implies a person makes a choice of the legacy of his “name.” What is your choice?
God also tells us the destiny of each person’s legacy, how people remember your name––“The memory of the righteous is blessed, but the name of the wicked will rot” (Proverbs 10:7).
What Would Grandpa Say?
By Jim Mettenbrink