When we think of the word legacy, we may immediately think of the influence that a person or circumstance has on future generations that come after them. Many memorial services focus on the impact that the person who passed away had on their loved ones and those that surrounded them in life.

However, the primary definition of legacy according to Webster’s Dictionary is this: “a gift by will, especially of money or other personal property”, followed by this definition: “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.”

These impersonal definitions perfectly incapsulate the way that many in our society view the idea of legacy, instead of the way that we ought to according to the Bible. A perfect example comes from the way two different genres of music define the concept of legacy.

Rap music, as with so much of contemporary music, discusses getting rich, chasing sexual pleasure, and gaining a “rep.” This reputation is gained by having multiple sexual partners, flaunting a collection of fancy cars, hosting large parties, and receiving respect from peers. When you’ve made enough money, gained enough respect, and maybe still have a few million to leave to your kids, you’ll finally have a legacy. This idea of legacy is very materially and presently focused. That is all that matters to many in the rap culture.

Despite the shallowness of these men and women chasing a lasting reputation in all the wrong ways, can we also not do the same? It is abundantly easy to judge this type of music for being vile and for glorifying wealth and sex because that is exactly what it does.

However, I wonder if we’re as quick to judge ourselves when we men fail to spiritually lead our families while we work endless hours? Will our kids remember us for our love of God, or for constantly trying to earn more money? No doubt, hard work is important, and modeling it for our kids is necessary. Yet, what will they think of first when they think of us at the end of our lives? Will it be the rich spiritual foundation we provided them with, or the material things such as a bigger car or house?

There is a popular song that came out a few years ago that makes this statement: “He never made time for the family, but he is the richest man in the cemetery.” It is a chilling thought that we could leave this earth without properly prioritizing God and our family’s spirituality.

I also wonder if we’re as quick to judge ourselves when we constantly worry about what people think of us. When we worry about how we’re liked at school or at work, or we focus on getting everyone to respect us so as inform our self-worth, are we really all that different from the rappers trying to protect their “rep”? Once again, it’s easy to criticize the garish and ostentatious nature of modern singers discussing their legacy, but I’m afraid we can act the same way, just more understated.

On the flip side, the Christian musical genre often discusses what legacy ought to mean. Are you sowing up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust can destroy (Matt. 6:20)? When you die, will those who knew you think of your earthly success with money, fame, and grandiose reputation? Or will they know you as a humble man or woman of God who understood this life and its pleasures are fleeting? If you are to be remembered in 200 years, how do you want people to think of you? When we care about things of this earth more than things of heaven, we hurt ourselves, our kids, and the generations that follow.

Instead, we must realize we have a unique opportunity to create a spiritual legacy that can last for generations if we are willing to recognize three things.

First, if you are a Christian, you’ve already been given everything that matters. You have a spiritual bank account that is full (read Romans 4 and Ephesians 1). You have meaningful relationships built into the church (read Acts 2:42-47). You have a reputation as a child of God, which is the most valuable “rep” you can possibly have (read Romans 8:16). Why should we chase the fleeting physical things of this world when we’ve been given everything that matters in abundance?

Secondly, store up for yourself treasures in heaven by pursuing the things of God – like helping your brothers and sisters in Christ in their walks with God, growing closer to God through Bible study and prayer, and evangelizing to a lost and dying world.

Third, your relationship with God can be and must be passed on to future generations, as the second definition from Webster’s reminds us. The Great Commission shows this is our job to multiply. Paul, in 2 Timothy 2:2, models for us the plan to pass down our faith to others.

You want a legacy? Appreciate what we in Christ have already been given, focus on the spiritual and heavenly things, and make it your life’s goal to pass this down to others. Then, in 200 years, you’ll truly be known as a man or woman who understood the power of a spiritual legacy.

By Joe Wilkie

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