Even the most financially ambitious among us hunger for more than just the money standard in our lives. Somewhere along the way, we want the assurance that our lives have been not only successful, but valuable. Most people want to leave something behind that would be not just a money gift to a cause, but the combination of a life of dedication that ripples out, in some way positively impacting others. We hope to leave a positive influence on our family, for example, or our community, or even the world – something that extends the passion or meaning of our living.
This is what we might call our living legacy. It’s the unspoken witness of our actions, how we have “walked the walk” in the process of getting through life. If we do leave a mark behind, we hope it will reflect our vision and values. And for those of us who are Christian, we hope that legacy will leave a footprint for others to follow, for example, to learn about Jesus Christ, or to be able to follow Him better in their living. Some people decide to leave Ethical Wills1 for their family members or congregations to hear about their values in their own words. Others give to a ministry or cause that lies close to their heart through their will or trust, and tell other people about its importance to them now.
Bishop Robert Schnase reminds us of the context for such efforts. “We have been the recipients of grace upon grace,” he says. “We are the heirs, the beneficiaries of those who came before us who were touched by the generosity of Christ enough to give graciously so that we could experience the truth of Christ for ourselves. We owe the same to generations to come.” 2
May you continue to clarify the living legacy you want to share, and find a way to pass it on to others, both now and after this lifetime.
Your partner in ministry,
1 – An Ethical Will is a personal document meant to communicate your values, experiences and life lessons to the next generation. Rabbis and Jewish laypeople have written Ethical Wills in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In recent years, the practice has been used more widely by the general public. Find out more about Ethical Wills at: https://celebrationsoflife.net/ethicalwills/examples/ or https://www.everplans.com/articles/how-to-write-an-ethical-will.
2 – Robert Schnase, Cultivating Fruitfulness: Five Weeks of Prayer and Practice for Congregations (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2008).