“WISDOM OF LIVING: (47) LEGACY” By Pastor YAU
Text: Proverbs 22:1-6 July 16, 2006
1) An important insight: Erma Bombeck was a very successful writer. Her writing career spanned over three decades from the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s. Besides the hundreds of columns appeared in dozens of national papers, she also wrote 12 books and received 16 honorary doctoral degrees. But three years before she died of cancer in 1996, Erma told an ABC TV interviewer that no matter how many columns and books she has written, her most important legacy would be her three children. “If I did a bad job with them,” she said, “then everything else I do isn’t very important.”
2) An important lesson: Bombeck had riches and fame and the good will of millions of faithful readers, but she realized that her top priority was train her children so they grow up the right way as King Solomon said. Although no parent can guarantee that his/her child will turn out to be good, godly and honorable citizen, those of us who are parents must have Erma’s attitude. Sometimes it’s a battle hard to win, often it’s costly to our time and patience, but the value of our children overshadows all other success we may achieve. Our children are our most important legacy.
WHY IS LEGACY IMPORTANT? Unlike inheritance which is mostly material possessions you left to your children, legacy is about you, your name, memory and honor. You don’t have to be dead to leave behind a legacy like that of inheritance. Our life may impact others, leaves behind memory in people’s heart so they may attribute you with honor.
1) Legacy is about you: Unlike inheritance which is mostly, if not completely, material possession you may leave for your children when you die, legacy is about you, the person. Inheritance only becomes available after the owner is dead but legacy begins to exist even when you are still alive. Legacy is not about what you have but about who you are. Legacy is not what you have left for others it is about how you live your life that may stay in people’s heart. This is why legacy is far more important to the living than inheritance to the dead.
2) Legacy is about how you live: Most people today care more on how much you make or what you have, but legacy is about how you live your life and the impact on others mostly on your children. People who care how much you have don’t care how you made it, but legacy focuses exactly on how your made it, the way you live and act to get you this far. That is why many rich and powerful and famous people do not have much a legacy, but simple people who are honest, loving, caring and self giving left many memorable legacies others will never forget.
3) Legacy is about honor: People today care so much about success but legacy is about honor. Few success stories impact people lives in substantial way but honorable acts of love, persistence, caring and self sacrifice in legacy bring honor and respect to those who originate the legacy. In a society which knows material matters so much, legacy of honor brings out the best of mankind.
4) Legacy is about family: Most legacies are family stories worthy and deeply meaningful to members of family especially children. In a society where the value of family is being attacked, abandoned, ignored and even destroyed, legacy becomes more important than ever. It is an honor for parents to live their lives that build legacies that impact the lives of their children. It is also an honor for children to inherit legacies from their parents and continue to build on the foundation parents had lain. Sociologists may focus on family as important foundation of civilization, but I will attribute family to be the cradle of personal value and memory.
ON THE PARENTS’ SIDE:
1) It all begins with your value: We all have a hidden value system that guides our pursuit of life. In the process of growing up, we will face many choices. The one we value the most will dominate our attention, time, energy and focus. As to Erma Bombeck, her most valuable choice is her children. All other achievements with her career, her insightful columns, life advices she had given, analysis of current events and books she wrote, honor she received with the degrees and admiration from millions of faithful readers all summed up to nothing if she didn’t do a good job in bringing up her children the right way. We all have a choice of values. Make that choice wisely and carefully.
2) Then it is your commitment: Choosing the best value for life is not easy, but commit to that value is even harder. No choice of value will bear fruit without the commitment and efforts we put into it to make it work. Besides our investment of love, time, energy and patience in our children, we must be determined to “train” them. The word “train” in Proverbs means “discipline.” It means setting of boundary and guideline, efforts of coaching, paying attention, steps of correction and unwavering pursuit along the way. We all know this is true in the making of good athletes, soldiers and professionals. We need to apply the same principles in “train up” our children the right way so they will not depart form it when they get older.
3) It is also about your example: We all know that children learn their best from examples of their parents. We can’t tell them, “do what I say and not do what I do.” That won’t work. If it is good for you, why it isn’t good for them? If we don’t set good examples in front of our children, we lose the respect and authority in coaching them to do the right thing. Telling them what to do is easy setting good examples for them is hard. But it is very important if you want to see them obey your guidance and correction. Your value system and the way you practice it have profound influence on your children. It won’t work if you expect your children do better than you.
4) You need God in every step: Life is a complex business and often times it is not that easy to “train” our children. We need wisdom and unlimited love in discharging our responsibilities as parents. To this, James offered us treasures of resource when we need them. In James 1:5, James said, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” This means you need to keep a closer walk with God. It also means you need to humble yourself to God’s word and personally practice what they say, so when you need wisdom in “training” your children, God will give you through His words. Jesus said, “Good trees bear good fruits,” in Matthew . Whatever comes out of your life will be seen in the lives of your children.
ON THE CHILDREN’S SIDE: A legacy is a family treasure, memory and honor from their parents held by members of that family especially children. It takes both sides of the family to create and preserve a sweet memory or legacy that everyone in the family is proud to have. Children have much to contribute to build and preserve the legacy of their family.
1) Focus on your family: While this is the title of a program produced by the famous Christian Family Ministry sponsored by the world renowned education Dr. James Dobson, it is also the backbone of all members in every family if they want to build a sweet legacy. In the secular world today when the value of family is being attacked from all sides, people are so individualistic, family is still the most important safe haven and training ground for children. While we recognize the need of friends for children to grow up, they need to build a strong sense of belonging with the family.
2) Demonstrate appreciation: One of the most destructive attitudes any one may have to ruin a family is lack of appreciation and respect from children to parents regardless of how much they have done or sacrificed. We all know there are no perfect parents just as there are no perfect children. A sense of observant, respect and appreciation on the good things parents have done, character they have shown, honors they have tried to achieve will contribute greatly to the building of a memorable legacy that will make you proud of being part of such a family.
3) Willing to carry the baton: All legacies will die if no one is willing to continue the holding, building, expanding and passing on to the next generation. Many of the precious legacies of our former generations were lost because people of next generation were not committed to continue the pursuit. Individualism is one of the major reasons why legacies didn’t survived. There isn’t much parents can do to continue a legacy. It is up to the children to continue the process of building, keeping and expanding. You don’t have to be born rich and famous. But you need to be proud of your family and the legacy your parents leave to you. Meaningful traditions and family pride will be preserved when children are willing to continue carrying the legacy.
4) You may be the founder: Not all families have legacies. Some of us came from shaky or broken background. That doesn’t mean we cannot start our own legacy. We all have equal opportunity to start a new legacy by doing what is honorable, good character, sweet memory and worth of respect. Do not blame your parents or ancestors for not passing on legacy to you, you can start a new one by being conscious how you live and who you are instead of what you do or have. Legacy helps us build roots of our family and guide us to right direction and future.
1) On being, not doing: An experiment was conducted like this: Try to introduce yourself to others without referring to what you do or have. The purpose is to tell people who you are instead of what you do or have. It is the “being” of you that contributes to your legacy, not the “doing” or “having”. People remember “who you are” better and longer than your grades, job or wealth. The important part of you is “YOU” the person, nothing else.
2) Never too late: a legacy is what you will leave behind when you are no longer there: a family, a job, a school, a church, etc. The value of that is about you. Regardless of what was in your past, you may start a new legacy from today. Be someone worthy of honor, praise, respect and memory so your family and others will feel proud of being part of your legacy.
3) The best legacy: When Joshua declared to his whole world, the Israelis, saying, “As to me and my household, we shall serve the Lord,” (Joshua 24:14) he set the stage of a family legacy: their faith in the living God. No legacy is better than a man and his family devoted themselves to the sovereignty of God.