These thoughts were prompted by comments & discussion with some friends about the concept of “Leaving a Legacy” …  and some of the thinking seemed to be about leaving a legacy for our children. So these are my thoughts about the concept of Christians leaving a legacy.

  1. We are all reasonably healthy, wealthy and educated Christians (the people I was talking with)
  2. We want to leave a good legacy
    1. We have a lot of potential, especially through our ability to make choices in the way we use and allocate our resources (time, talents, money, love etc)
    2. We can use this potential in many ways, including to do a LOT of good in the world (if we choose to).
    3. We already have a legacy – what would be left behind if we died today
    4. The only change we can make to our legacy is through what we do over the coming years
    5. Our legacy is not only what people might say about us at our funeral. Funeral speeches might be relevant, or they could miss the mark. A large part of our legacy might be invisible (except to God and those people whose lives we have affected, even if they don’t know who we are). It is more important to do the right thing, than to have people say nice things about us.
    6. Some of our legacy will be through what we do naturally in our lives – looking after our family, loving our spouse & children, being a good citizen, participating in church community, being a good employer or employee, caring for the planet etc
    7. We can also add to our legacy using our ‘margin’ – the extra parts of time, money, talents and love etc we have available (there might be other things I have missed).
    8. The choices we make have some effect on how much margin we have in our lives. Eg our choices can increase or decrease the ‘spare’ time we have, or the ‘spare’ money we have, or the love we have available to give to others.
  3. We already have some margin in our lives. The amount of margin changes over time, and also we can choose to change it
    1. At different stages in our lives, we have different demands on our resources, and different amounts of margin. At some stages in life we might have a surplus/margin of time, and at other times we might have a surplus/margin of money. (And at some stages it might all seem to be absorbed by the demands on us and we feel we have little or no margin)
    2. We can trade money and time for each other. (eg we sell our time to employers in exchange for money. And we can pay people to do work for us eg lawnmowing and hence free up time)
    3. If we want to increase our legacy, we might need to make some changes so as to increase our margin, and then this margin can be used to increase our legacy
  4. Money is important to consider
    1. Money is very fungible ie very easily converted into other things (eg we can buy objects or time) – whereas our other resources (time, talent, love) are not as fungible.
    2. Money is easy to give, send or distribute (our other resources can’t be given or sent as easily)
    3. The Bible says a lot about money & possessions. However, christians and the church don’t tend to talk much about the way we use our/God’s money.
  5. We are Christians seeking to follow Jesus
    1. We are followers of the ‘Way’ – seeking to walk in the ‘Way’ of Jesus
    2. Jesus is the best indication of the nature of God – it is very helpful to view God through the ‘lens’ of Jesus.
    3. The teachings and actions of Jesus can/should help us determine how best to live our lives
    4. The priorities shown in the New Testament, and especially in the gospels, should affect the lives we live
    5. The gospel priority is the Kingdom of God, which is challenging and complex. The Kingdom of God should also be our priority.
    6. As Jesus-followers, our whole lives and all we have belongs to God (or should belong to God). Inherent in the concept of stewardship is that we are merely stewards of God’s resources – all that we have and are, including our talents, resources and time, belong to God, and we are looking after it (stewarding) on His behalf. Useful parallels are trusteeship of Charitable Trust, or being a financial investor looking after client’s funds.
  6. The values of society are very pervasive, and may conflict with Kingdom values
    1. All Jesus-followers live in societies that will have some values that align with the Kingdom, and others that conflict with Kingdom values.
    2. The smart/right/best thing for Jesus-followers to do is to align with and enhance the values where societal and Kingdom values overlap.
    3. Where societal and Kingdom values conflict, Jesus-followers should adhere to the Kingdom values. This means that in all societies, there will be aspects where Jesus-followers should be counter-cultural
    4. In rich western societies, many of the values that conflict with the Kingdom are attractive and nice eg aspects of materialism, success, status, independence, power, privilege etc. The attractiveness and comfort of these values tends to reduce the number of Jesus-followers that identify these values as problematic &/or choose to be counter-cultural to these values.
    5. One reason the gospel/church is less-effective-than-it-might-be in society these days is that the church doesn’t identify the cultural issues, nor does it effectively teach/live/model counter-cultural living in these important areas
  7. The importance of family
    1. We have a personal responsibility to love and care for our immediate family. And we also have a natural and good inclination to do more for our immediate family than for others around us.
    2. There are not many specific scriptures about our responsibility to care for our families. In contrast there are hundreds of scriptures about the importance of caring for the poor. This might be because we tend to the first of these naturally (care for family) and often neglect the second (caring for the poor and needy), so the Scriptures seek to help address that imbalance.
    3. One societal value that probably should be challenged is that of immediate family. Our love for others should lead naturally to an extension of who we consider to be ‘family’, so they become more than just immediate blood relatives &/or those that live under our roof. Also, at times, the kingdom call in our lives might lead us away from societal expectations of ‘family responsibilities’ (as seen in some of the statements from Jesus)
  8. God cares about the poor and so should we
    1. Some theological practitioners correctly talk about God’s preferential option for the poor.
    2. Some scriptures equate the way Christians treat the poor with either the way they are treating God, or the way God will treat them.
    3. The core concepts of following Jesus can be summed up by “Love God and love your neighbour as yourself”. We show our love by our actions
    4. The parable of the good Samaritan teaches that our neighbour is anyone who we see in need and can help
    5. With worldwide communication, the neighbours we see in need are worldwide, and especially in poor or disaster-affected countries. And with the easy availability of international aid and development support, that is usually affected by lack of finance, we have the ability to help these needy neighbours easily and effectively.
    6. One of the concepts of the Kingdom of God & the ‘Lords Prayer’ is that we should be working towards establishing the Kingdom of God here on earth – although obviously it will be partial, incomplete, imperfect etc. One of the core concepts of the Kingdom of God is justice, and hence justice for the poor/oppressed/marginalised/outcasts is one of the core areas that Christians should work on.
  9. The reality
    1. There are more than 20 million slaves in the world today[1] – more than the total number of slaves during the transatlantic slave trade from the 16th through 19th century.
    2. 1 in 9 children in the world go to bed hungry. And 80% of these are involved in food product – so they are growing food but aren’t able to eat it.
    3. 16,000 children die every day from malnutrition and preventable diseases. We can’t save them all, but we can save 1 or 2 or 200
    4. These days, it is very easy to make a large difference in the lives of the poor overseas eg
      1. $3 to purchase a mosquito net to protect 2 children for 5 years from mosquitos carrying malaria or dengue fever
      2. $10 to deworm a child every year while they are at school, leading on average to an increase in earnings of 25% pa
      3. $3500 is enough to save a life
    5. In practice, most Christians don’t appear to live as though they are truly loving their neighbour as themselves, or even attempting to move very far in that direction. We would undertake the items above (cost effective interventions) for our own children without hesitation – yet we are reluctant to do similar things for the children of others overseas. Is this anything like ‘loving our neighbour as ourself’?
    6. The topics of ‘loving your neighbour as yourself’ in practice, and caring for the poor, are not typically high on the agenda of churches or Christians. There is a shortage of sermons and teaching on the radical nature of these topics, and also a shortage of visible committed ‘models’.
    7. The western church and western Christians have the potential to do MUCH more good in the world than they currently do, especially addressing areas of injustice and poverty
    8. The gap between the rich and poor has grown incredibly in the past 150 years, mainly through the rich (us) becoming much richer. And hence the potential and responsibility for the rich to help the poor worldwide is an important issue NOW. The opportunities are much greater now than ever before in history, due to 3 large changes – 1) our wealth is so much greater now (relatively) than the poor, 2) it is now very easy to transfer wealth (give money away) internationally, & 3) there is very good research and evidence about the most effective ways to help the poor
  1. Other thoughts
    1. We all have different talents, interests, passions etc
    2. There are many different causes/issues that we might be passionate about, and which will lead to work/action for justice
    3. We often create false binaries – that we can either do this OR that. Eg “care for the planet OR care for the poor”, “love my family OR love the needy people down the road”. The reality is that we can actually do a wide range of good things, and do them well, if we choose.
    4. Proximity has some effect on love/care/altruism – we are more likely to love/help people who are closer to us (both geographically & physically/socially). However it is debatable whether this is just normal or normative. (Normal = describing the way things are – the IS. Normative describing the way things should be – the OUGHT).
    5. The majority of people who self-describe as Effective Altruists also self-describe as atheist. Effective Altruists ask “How can we improve the lives of others as much as possible?”. Christians should ask “How can we love others, and especially the poor/needy/oppressed/marginalised, as much as possible?”.
    6. It is worth considering the concept of core commitments and interests/passions. Core commitments would be the things that all Christians should care about – have as core commitments, and interests/passions are the areas that might vary from person to person. This concept seems to make sense. Love for others, justice and care for the poor would presumably be part of the core commitments. Worthy of discussion is the ratio of our time/energy/love/talents/money we should put into core commitments vs interests/passions – should this be say 80:20 or 50:50 or 10:90????
    7. If we are truly stewards of God’s resources (wealth/talent/time etc), then our spending should reflect God’s priorities.
    8. If we are truly stewards of God’s resources (wealth/talent/time etc), then our Will should reflect what God would have us do with HIS money when we die. There is obviously a difference between the concept of leaving OUR money to OUR children vs leaving HIS money to HIS Kingdom.
  2. What should we do?
    1. Consider what we would want if we were living someone else’s life – as a slave in Asia, or a parent watching their child starve in Sudan …. What would me-the-slave think that me-the-rich-person should do?
    2. Review cultural norms. Then aim to be counter-cultural in the areas of importance – areas that are important to God &/or God’s Kingdom &/or justice &/or the effectiveness of Christianity &/or the poor/marginalised/oppressed in the world.
    3. All loving and responsible parents want to save/help/love/bless/teach/grow their children. The tendency is to think this can be improved by giving more to our children (eg more time, more listening), and often this is true. BUT, in our strong and dominant, materialistic and self-centred western culture, we might ALSO help our children by demonstrating a genuine love for neighbour – investing time/energy/money to helping & loving people in real need, and trying to change the world for our poor ‘neighbours’.”
    4. Reflect
    5. Learn
    6. Act
    7. Make incremental changes that are sustainable

[1] http://www.freetheslaves.net/about-slavery/slavery-today/  New slavery has two chief characteristics—it’s cheap and it’s disposable. Slaves today are cheaper than ever. In 1850, an average slave in the American South cost the equivalent of $40,000 in today’s money. Today a slave costs about $90 on average worldwide.