A Lasting Legacy

Seeking the Eternal Inheritance

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Have you ever considered writing your own obituary? 

It might strike some as morbid, but writing an autobiographical obituary could help people focus on the kind of person they would like to be and the type of legacy they would like to leave their loved ones.

When we become parents, planning for the future takes on an additional level of responsibility.

Taking stock of our progress in life regularly is a highly effective planning tool. Baptized Christians, for example, evaluate themselves to gauge their spiritual growth in preparation for the annual Passover service (1 Corinthians 11:28; 13:5) . Some individuals analyze their successes and failures on a regular benchmark date, such as a birthday. Regular self-assessments are healthy and beneficial.

When we become parents, planning for the future takes on an additional level of responsibility. Now our little ones depend on us for their welfare, and it’s only natural and practical to begin thinking long-term.

There are great spiritual lessons we can glean from God’s Word about the concept of a lasting legacy.

Making provision for the future is simply wise. And, as it turns out, there are great spiritual lessons we can glean from God’s Word about the concept of a lasting legacy.

Practically speaking

Scripture commends those who wisely plan for their progeny. Planning ahead for two generations is lauded in the wisdom literature: “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” (Proverbs 13:22) .

But a warning is also given against providing a windfall of physical wealth to a child not prepared for it: “An inheritance gained hastily at the beginning will not be blessed at the end” (Proverbs 20:21). In other words, anyone not properly prepared for substantial capital wealth may foolishly squander such treasure (Proverbs 21:20) .

The Old Testament is filled with numerous examples of individuals providing their children with an inheritance.

The Old Testament is filled with numerous examples of the patriarchs—and later the Israelites—providing their children with an inheritance. These types of legacies were usually of land and special blessings.

Leaving a portion of land as an inheritance made considerable sense in an agricultural society. Historically, land provided a means of making a living. As families grew and spread out, apportioning land and livestock became essential (recall the necessity for Abraham and Lot to separate, for example).

Typically, the firstborn was provided with a double portion of the inheritance since, once the patriarch of the family died, the firstborn son would become responsible for the care and well-being of the entire family. This right of inheritance to the eldest son (officially termed primogeniture) figures prominently in the Bible history of the brothers Esau and Jacob.

In a modern context, although inheritances of land and livestock still take place, wills, trusts, and other types of estate planning are more common. So do we as parents have an obligation to provide a physical inheritance to our children?

Scripture shows us that the greatest legacy we can pass on to our children is of much more value than money.

Those who have been blessed with physical wealth and have managed their finances wisely certainly have this option, keeping in mind the proverb about providing too much for a child unprepared to properly handle it, “for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15) .

Planning for the financial future is wise, but Scripture shows us that the greatest legacy we can pass on to our children is of much more value than money.

A daily example

The memory of an individual and how he or she chose to make a life is also part of the meaning of the word legacy. Good or bad, the legacies of people who have died are what we remember the most. There’s even a memorial chapter in the Bible, full of individuals who exhibited great examples of faith during their lives (Hebrews 11). You may enjoy reviewing these examples with your children and discussing the biographies of the individuals listed.

Who we are on a consistent basis is how we will be remembered. As part of a regular self-evaluation, a good question to ask ourselves as parents is this: Am I setting a good example for others to remember? Or perhaps, more specifically: How will my children remember me?

No doubt as a parent you feel compelled to teach your children basic virtues. The aspects of the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control—are beautiful and worthy traits to teach our children (Galatians 5:22-23) .

Providing a daily example of modeling godly behavior for our children is more powerful than any single Bible study we can teach them.

But more important than teaching these and other positive traits is living them in our daily lives. The apostle Paul urged his young charge Timothy to set an example “in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12) . Though this was written in the context of an older mentor giving words of wisdom to a young minister, it is certainly applicable to parents who are making a daily impression in the lives of their children. As parents, we are our children’s primary mentors.

Providing a daily example of modeling godly behavior for our children is more powerful than any single Bible study we can teach them. Multiple references in Scripture discuss walking in faith, walking in the way, walking in the Spirit. The emphasis on action is clear.

We are entrusted with our children, to provide and care for them, by the God of the universe!

A daily directive

Instilling virtues and setting a personal example are both certainly important as we guide our children. But we have an additional purpose in teaching the next generation.

Here’s how the wise King Solomon was inspired to describe children: “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:30, emphasis added).

How interesting to note that while we are in the process of providing a heritage to our children, they are in fact described as a heritage to us—from God! The Hebrew word for heritage connotes taking possession of something—like a priceless heirloom. So essentially, when our children are born, we become their guardians.

Seen from this perspective, we can understand just how precious our children are. We are entrusted with them, to provide and care for them, by the God of the universe! And when they are born into a family of believing parents—or even just one believing parent—they are holy (1 Corinthians 7:14) . As Christian parents, it is our beautiful burden of responsibility to “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) .

Believing and living this way of life should be so deeply embedded in our own hearts that it naturally informs our daily discussions, customs, and family culture.

Raising our children, educating them in this endeavor, is a daily action that requires our full commitment: “These words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). In other words, believing and living this way of life should be so deeply embedded in our own hearts that it naturally informs our daily discussions, customs, and family culture.

This is not just a directive given to the ancient Israelites. A deep, abiding love of God and His commandments is foundational to establishing a personal relationship with Him (Matthew 22:37-40; John 14:15; 1 John 2:3-6) .

Ultimately it is up to our children to decide whether or not they will respond to God’s calling, continue in “the Way” (Acts 9:2) , and as adults seek a personal relationship with Him through baptism (Acts 2:38-39) . In the meantime, we have a responsibility to instill a love of God and His way in the hearts of our children.

Part of our job as Christian parents is to teach our children to emulate Jesus Christ while we do the same, walking “just as He walked.”

The most valuable legacy of all time

As we teach our children, we can point them to multiple examples throughout the Bible, but one example stands out without comparison.

The legacy of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection stands as an undeniable testament to all of humanity (Acts 2:36; 4:12; Romans 5:8-11; 1 Peter 2:21-24) . Part of our job as Christian parents is to teach our children to emulate Jesus Christ while we do the same, walking “just as He walked” (1 John 2:6) .

Regularly reviewing Jesus Christ’s life example in the New Testament gospel accounts can help us keep His legacy firmly implanted in our minds. Each gospel writer (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) presents a slightly different perspective of Jesus’ life, words, and purpose. Taken together, the accounts provide a clear picture of the example we are to follow. Reading through the gospels once a year is a good target goal to keep this image clear in our minds. And we should not hesitate to point out examples to our children of Jesus’ life, miracles, teachings, and fulfillment of prophecy.

John’s gospel account ends with a fascinating nugget for us to consider: “And there were also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). This is indeed a powerful legacy! What has been recorded for us in Scripture is no doubt quite enough to keep us each busy for the rest of our lives as we strive to attain the holy, righteous character of Jesus Christ.

It can be helpful to remember that Jesus Christ is our advocate, continually clearing us of our sins when we seek forgiveness.

Though we know that living up to Jesus Christ’s perfect, sinless legacy is physically impossible because our carnality continuously puts us at “enmity against God” (Romans 8:7) , we are still instructed throughout Scripture to make the attempt, knowing that it is possible with God’s Spirit (Romans 8:9-11) . When we get discouraged, it can be helpful to remember that Jesus Christ is our advocate (Hebrews 4:14-16) , continually clearing us of our sins when we seek forgiveness (Colossians 2:13-14) .

As your children mature, be sure to explain why Jesus Christ—the Lamb of God—had to endure the sacrifice He did for all of humanity. You may find our Word of God lesson “Passover” a helpful resource for this instruction.

An incorruptible inheritance

An inherited trait is transmitted from a parent to a child, written directly onto the DNA. Astonishingly, God the Father offers us something similar, made possible by Jesus Christ’s legacy. And it’s directly relevant to the concept of receiving an inheritance.

To accomplish this purpose, God offers us a miraculous gift: “ the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

What is God’s overall objective for humanity? Put simply, it is this: “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18).

Since before the Garden of Eden, God the Father has set out to build a family by, in effect, reproducing Himself through humanity. He made people in His very own image, desiring to have a personal parent-child relationship with them (Genesis 1:26-27; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Revelation 21:3) . God “seeks godly offspring” (Malachi 2:15)  and wants to see them brought to glory (Hebrews 2:10) .

To accomplish this purpose, God offers us a miraculous gift: “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38) . It is through this indwelling miracle of the Holy Spirit that God is able to transform our carnal nature into holy, righteous character as we yield to Him, thereby enabling us to emulate Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is a portion of God’s very nature, written directly into our being—like a spiritual tissue graft of the heart and mind that enables us to be transformed (Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 3:3) .

Explain to your children that when we allow ourselves to be led by God’s Spirit, we show God that we want to be His children and that we want Him to be our Father (Romans 8:14-16) . This is how we respond to His calling, His desire to have a personal parent-child relationship with each of us individually. His Spirit dwelling in us after baptism enables us to be His children, “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:17) .

So the astonishing truth is that God the Father wants us to be His heirs and wants to give us an incorruptible, eternal inheritance in His very family (Psalm 37:18; Ephesians 1:10-11; Colossians 1:12; Hebrews 9:15; 1 Peter 1:3-4) ! He offers us His Holy Spirit as a promise, “a guarantee of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:14) , like a down payment of a treasure yet to be paid in full. We are to be joint heirs in His future Kingdom.

Joint heirs in the Kingdom of God: This is the goal, the target, the aim.

Joint heirs in the Kingdom of God: This is the goal, the target, the aim. Ultimately we are seeking to share in this inheritance with our very own children as we guide them daily.

And isn’t that a legacy worth planning for?

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