The legacy that we leave on this earth will not be made with things.  Our legacy in this world will not be based on the buildings we have built, or the cars we’ve bought or restored, or the home improvement projects we’ve completed.  It will not be established by fashion lines we’ve designed or the interior decorating we’ve done.  It certainly won’t be established by the clothes we wear or the shoes we’ve bought.  The legacy we leave is established in the lives of the people around us.  It’s in the children that we raise and the friends we believe in and the co-workers that we bring the best out of.  Our legacy is not established with things.  It’s established in relationships.

Sure there are exceptions: Henry Ford will be remembered for the automobile, and the Wright Brothers for the plane, and Pablo Picasso for his paintings. And it’s a good thing because these people were notoriously bad with their relationships. These people and a few others like them left a legacy in their paintings and their designs and their inventions, but that is not true for most of us.  Most of us will leave our legacy in the lives of people. But you already know this, right? There’s nothing new and novel about that concept. I think it’s safe to say that you and I understand that things are temporary and people are forever.

So What’s the Problem?

The problem is when you look at how we spend our time we just don’t practice what we preach.  Sure we believe we make our legacy in the lives of people, but yet we spend our life in pursuit of things.

  • We spend a massive amount of time in pursuit of a career that will establish our legacy.
  • We spend huge amounts of time on decorating and redecorating.
  • We carefully choose cars that will represent us as we deserve.
  • We have become obsessed with our technology. Phones and tablets and computers and DVRs have captured our attention so much that we can’t keep our eyes off of them.
  • We do spend what little time we have on left on people…we spend it on ourselves.  We focus on how we look and what makeup we wear and our fitness and comfort and happiness.

If you simply take the amount of time that we spend on work and building corporations and hair and makeup and establishing our image through things like cars and decorating, and add all that up and compare it to the time we spend pouring into people, it’s hard to come to the conclusion that we believe that our legacy will be established through relationships.  In fact, allow me to take it to an uncomfortable level.  If you add up all the time we spend on establishing our legacy through things and all the time we spend building a legacy on people, it’s hard to find an area of our lives in which we are more hypocritical.

Granted, this may be an overstatement. But it may not. Either way I think it’s a good time for a little self evaluation, don’t you? How much time do you invest in people versus the time you spend on all the other things that just won’t last?

The Word

So? What’s the verdict? Are you spending more time on things instead of people? Well, in case you are, here’s another thought to ponder about your legacy that may help you to shift the focus back to the people in your life:

Your greatest success may not be what you accomplish but what you pass on to the next generation.

That was certainly the case in the Bible for David. David wanted to build a temple for the Ark of the Covenant. He looked around and noticed that he was living in a beautiful palace while the Ark of the Covenant, which was considered the home of God, was for all practical purposes being housed in a Coleman pop-up tent. David knew this wasn’t right and decided to do something about it; he decided to build God a proper temple. Good idea, right? Wrong. And why wasn’t it a good idea? Well, it was good because God said No. That’s right, it happens sometimes. It happens to you and it happens to me. Some times we just don’t get what we want, even when it seems like a really good idea. That’s what happened to David. This was something David really wanted to do and it was a good thing, a noble thing, and God flat out said, “No.”

Sometimes God says “No”

I’m going to jump off the track here a little bit to emphasize an important point: Sometimes God says “No.” He just does. Sometimes he says no to our dreams and our plans and what I want you to understand is that just because God says no to you that doesn’t mean that He doesn’t like you or that you’ve done something wrong. What you want just isn’t part of His plan. That was certainly the case for David. David wanted to build a temple, God said No. You may want a promotion or to get that new job or to have that offer accepted on your dream house and just like David, God might say no. It happened to David, it can happen to you. Heck, it happened to me. I’ve wanted to find a building for our church for 20 years! (In case you aren’t familiar with Canyon Springs, our slogan is that “we meet in a middle school but we have buildings all over the world.”)

Back to Legacy Building

But enough about me, let’s get back to talking about David and legacy building. David wanted to build a temple and and God said no and although we don’t always get to know why God says no, this time He told David exactly why he couldn’t build the temple and here’s what He said:

12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. —2 Samuel 7:12,13

Did you get that? In case you missed it, let me give you the 21st century translation: “David you won’t build me a house.  It won’t happen in your lifetime.  You’ll be long dead.  It’s your son who is going to do it.”

A Proper Legacy

So David wasn’t able to build the temple.  God said no.  The temple wasn’t going to be a part of the legacy that David would leave behind. But that doesn’t mean David’s dream died:

So David gave orders to assemble the foreigners residing in Israel, and from among them he appointed stonecutters to prepare dressed stone for building the house of God. 3 He provided a large amount of iron to make nails for the doors of the gateways and for the fittings, and more bronze than could be weighed. 4 He also provided more cedar logs than could be counted, for the Sidonians and Tyrians had brought large numbers of them to David. David said, “My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the Lord should be of great magnificence and fame and splendor in the sight of all the nations. Therefore I will make preparations for it.” So David made extensive preparations before his death. —1 Chronicles 22:2-5

David wasn’t allowed by God to build the temple but that didn’t mean he couldn’t still play a part in it. David couldn’t build the temple he wanted to build, but he did the next best thing, maybe even a better thing. David poured all his time and attention for the remainder of his life to making sure that his son was a success, to making sure that he would have everything he needed when it was time for him to follow God’s path.

I think there is a lesson in here for us.  Maybe our goal shouldn’t be making a name for ourselves.  Maybe it shouldn’t be to see how big we can make our bank accounts, or to accumulate real estate, or cars, or the best furniture and clothes. Maybe our goal should be to use our resources to set up the future generation for success.  And there are all kinds of ways we can do that:

  • Pray for our kids
  • Raise them in the church
  • Care for the kids in your neighborhood
  • Teach Sunday school
  • Volunteer in our youth ministry
  • Mentor a young prodigy at your work

Break the Cycle

I’ve said this many times before but it bears repeating.  I know some of you come from a rough family background.  Your parents were distant or abusive or addicted.  If all you do is to shift that environment and break that legacy of abuse then you are a success.  If all you do is trade dysfunction for function you are a success.  You don’t have to do anything else with your life.  Your life will have been a success.

It starts with an attitude shift.  Rather than focusing on you and making a name for yourself and pointing people to you and your accomplishments, focus on that next generation.  They may be the ones that live out your dream.

Look, you can try to make a name for yourself through buildings with your name on it or pictures that the world recognizes or a car that bears your name, but if that’s the focus of your life you may miss a real legacy.  Legacies are made through people, not things.  Let me end with this simple question.  How are you building your legacy?