David Hegg | Build Your Life, Not Your Legacy

David Hegg
David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident. "Ethically Speaking" runs Saturdays in The Signal.

By David Hegg

In my little world, I often hear guys musing about their legacy. They wonder how they will be remembered, what lasting impressions they will leave on the world, and if the things they started will continue. 

Frankly, I’m sick and tired of hearing these discussions and even more tired of folks asking me what I think my legacy will be.  

In the first place, questions about legacy almost always come from those who look at us old folks as though we were ready to be put out to pasture. Is the subject of legacy something you young folks bring up, hoping to be polite as you insinuate that we seasoned folks should step aside? 

Well, we’re not going anyplace yet … just so you know. 

We’re sticking around until we’re fresh out of value, and you’re ready to take over. We think you’re great and will be better than we’ve been, but only if you learn a few things before it’s your turn. 

The concept of legacy, in essence, is a futile and self-centered idea. The energy we spend now to ensure that those we leave behind have an emotional monument to our memory is both selfish and wasteful. 

In a world with so much to be done in the present, it would be wise to focus on what we can do today and trust the future to take care of itself. 

Someone has said, “Yesterday is a canceled check, and tomorrow is a promissory note. Today is cash; spend it wisely.” 

Yes, and we’d better spend it with as much vigor and courage as possible. This is the key to a life of true meaning and fulfillment. 

I have seen those worried about their legacy shy away from hard decisions, opt not to take on important challenges, and even forsake people and positions they once held dear. 

Like too many political leaders, they test the prevailing winds of public opinion and plot their course accordingly. After all, they have to protect their legacy.  

This dreadful, soul-diminishing disease of “legacyitis” seems to be almost epidemic today. Too many are living today in a way they think will make them memorable tomorrow. They are more focused on what people will think when they’re gone, than on their character and accomplishments today.   

We would do well to take a page from the life of an 18th century German count named Nicolas Zinzendorf. 

Born in 1700 in Dresden to one of the most influential families in Europe, he went on to become a religious leader in the Moravian movement. 

Among other things, many of his followers determined to sell themselves as slaves in order to bring the message of Jesus to the many victimized by the human slave trade. They also organized an amazing prayer vigil that continued, 24 hours a day, for over 100 years. 

With all that this great man did, he never considered his legacy something that needed to be planned for or even considered. 

One of his many poignant quotes aptly and succinctly expressed his heart. “Preach the gospel, die, and be forgotten.” 

He poured his life into his work, adding challenge after challenge without considering how success or failure would be remembered. 

As a result, we remember him with great admiration and seek to model his passions and priorities. 

So, if you and I are truly interested in leaving a legacy, the best thing you can do is forget about building it, and concentrate on living a life that is worth remembering. 

Be a noble, ethical and loving person. Do things well, and have something valuable to say. Ground your life in truth, prize your integrity and build strong, healthy relationships. 

Love God and love your neighbor, and rest in the fact that your legacy won’t matter later if your life doesn’t matter now. 

Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays. 

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