LIVING TO LEAVE A LEGACY
During a job interview of some young graduates many years ago, I asked my usual question,“Why do you want to work in this company?” One of the applicants gave me an unexpected answer. He told me that his parents lived opposite my office when he was in the primary and secondary schools and he used to watch and admire the way I was working. The light in my office was always on in the night and he imagined that I was working alone after office hours. He was wondering whether I was a teacher preparing lessons. That childhood impression he had of me made him to become a serious student and helped him to perform well in the university. He said he would love to work closely with that person he admired from a distance. Of course, that reason was just enough for meto employ him. He performed very well and later left for the US for further studies. I did not know that someone was observing and learning something from my work habit. I planted a seed in him unknowingly. Thank God, it was a good seed that produced good fruits.
I entered the University of Ife in 1961 with the desire of being one of the first graduatesin pharmacyfrom a Nigerian university. My uncle and guardian, Dan Erinne, preferred Medicine but when he realised that Medicine was not my interest, he had no choice but to encourage me to study whatever I liked. I quote here an extract from his letter dated March 3, 1961. That was when I had completed my Higher School Certificate and was teaching in a school while waiting for university admission in September. He wrote: “… What I would have advised is Medicine as first choice. But if you definitely dislike it… Many young people, in choosing a profession, look for that which brings most wealth or the highest social status and they usually imagine that Medicine gives both. I hope you are aware that that is not my aim in recommending Medicine. As a matter of fact, I would strongly advise you not to place material wealth and social pomp in the forefront. Rather, you should pray to God to find you a profession in which you will be a good Christian and, if possible, one that you will enjoy, not for the money or position it brings but simply for its own sake…”This epistle written to me more than 50 years ago has remained in my heart and greatly influenced my life up to this moment. It was a legacy my uncle left for me.
What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind you for your family, friends, community and so on? Every life leaves a legacy. The question is what type? The truth is that right now your life is leaving a legacy. Your family and friends will be left with what you pass on to them. Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children.” This inheritance could be wealth in several forms. But there is intangible inheritance that is more rewarding and lasting. I know of many cases of members of families fighting over their deceased father’s properties. Some of such cases are in courts today. Some families have fairly shared their inherited properties only to quickly fritter them away. Certain businesses inherited by children have collapsed as a result of mismanagement.
I know one particular family that inherited nothing tangible from their grandfather but the children and grandchildren are today very educated and prominent in various professions and businesses. Their grandfather believed in education, integrity and honesty and left this legacy behind. The problem we have in the society today is that many of us spend most of our lives trying to accumulate material things to leave for the next generation and give no thought to the important and valuable things in life. That is why values and true riches of life are depreciating from generation to generation.When Martin Luther was asked what he would do if he knew he were going to die tomorrow, replied simply, “I’d go out and plant a tree.”In other words, leave behind him a legacy that would grow on and on into the future.
One of the miserable characters in the Bible was a man called Gehazi, the servant of Prophet Elisha. The story in 2Kings chapter 5 says that when Elisha rejected all the precious gifts offered by Army Commander Naaman, whom he healed of leprosy, Gahazi demonstrated his greed and dishonesty. He pursued the Commander and told him lies that his master later needed some of those gifts. Therefore, he secretly collected some gifts not realising that his master had a spiritual gift of the word of knowledge. In verse 27, Elisha cursed Gehazi: “Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and your descendants forever.” The descendants of Gehazi were those born and unborn. What a legacy for his generation! From this story we learn that a bad father will leave a bad inheritance for his children.Today, wicked people still leave curses as an inheritance for their children.
Let me refer to a single action of a certain woman who had an eternal perspective. According to Matthew chapter 26, she poured a very expensive perfume on the head of Jesus as he was reclining at the table. The disciples were indignant at what they considered a colossal waste. But Jesus rebuked them and commended the woman. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” This unnamed and unknown woman instantly left a legacy.
How are your thoughts? What do you think about? Apostle Paul has given us a clue in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Thoughts are seeds you sow.