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Building a Family Legacy

Updated: Oct 12, 2023

Before we get into this subject we must understand what a legacy is. We often misuse the word legacy to indicate something that we will give to someone; such as:

  • a name

  • a section of property

  • a family business

We might also use the term to suggest the giving of the family rules as a sort of moral base that our children are expected to learn over time and commit to from the beginning of their ability to learn them.

All of these examples are examples of things that we give or provide to our children.

Of course, it is not only our children who may be the recipients of these things.

  • We might provide written rules about our company to a worthy employee who we want to see become successful.

  • We might desire to share with an immigrant the writings of the American Constitution and Bill of Rights, so they might seek to enjoy all of the freedoms offered to American citizens.

  • Another thing that one might provide is a standard that one must follow. For example, the United States government has the constitutional authority to define how we measure distance, weight, and economy. Therefore, the government provides to its people the standards that they must use to account to each other the value of a thing.

Finally, we as Christians are familiar with God’s word. It is filled with:

  • Standards

  • Commands

  • Stories of success and failure

one is able to:

  • Dismiss the word as impractical

  • Choose to believe it is simply false

  • Accept as true and therefore live it out and benefit from it

  • or Receive it but never truly or fully adopt its truth (including acceptance and falling away).

Understand that what I am saying is that the word may be given, but not actually treated as more than just a standard or an option by the recipient. This is to say that one might adopt the word as a source of morality and nothing else. In other words, refuse to accept the truth of Jesus Christ. (Jews?)

In all of these cases we are not actually talking about Legacy, but heritage.


  • - property that is or may be inherited; an inheritance.

  • - a special or individual possession; an allotted portion.

For our purpose, we will simply accept that a heritage is something given.

The Bible provides for this concept in the following ways: (not an exhaustive list)

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.

(Children are given by the Lord who already knew them)

Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you.

(Given as a punishment – a heritage based on disobedience)

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Jeremiah was given a duty of which God had to inform him to carry out. God appointed him, but he could have refused – which would have been a bad idea. Do you remember what happened when Jonah refused to take a message from God to the Ninevites?)

Exodus 20

The Ten Commandments

And God spoke all these words, saying,

2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

3 “You shall have no other gods before[a] me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands[b] of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

13 “You shall not murder

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.”

18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid[d] and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” 21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

(This is the stuff of morality – Christian morality if accepted as such, but as previously mentioned, may be adopted as secular morality if Christ is refused. Note that our country’s laws were based on this moral imperative of God, but as God is pushed out, most of this original moral foundation remains intact.)

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

(The word here is given as a tool to equip the teacher, (parent, mentor, pastor, other authority))

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.

(even the world can give a heritage)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (If accepted, this gift is a heritage that identifies one as a Christian.)

All of these examples are things given that one might choose to learn and either exercise or experience over a period of time to their benefit. They may also either choose to live according to these provided principles or rules, choose not to, or start out strong and fade away from them over time.

Understand that a heritage can be:

  • turned away from,

  • not accepted at all,

  • or even given away.

It can also be squandered as was the case with the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15:11-32)

As much as we value our heritage as Americans – can we say that there are people who do not choose to accept the gift of being an American in the way the Founding Fathers intended?


Now that we have opened the conversation of the American Way, as we once defined it, let’s look at the concept of legacy.

Many of us who are a bit older have a concept of American patriotism trained into us. We believe in Mom, apple pie, and baseball – so to speak.

These are things that we learned from the earliest age, not because they were given to us, but because they were built into us. Most of us cannot actually recall when this building started, and we will likely never be able to remember when we started understanding baseball as America’s pastime or why we appreciate apple pie when we cannot stand apples. Many of us would never eat hotdogs at home, but when the guy coming down the steps at the baseball game yells out “HOTDOGS HERE”, we somehow want one – and are willing to spend insane amounts of money on that delicious package of animal byproducts in a bun.

Your things may not be baseball, apple pie or hotdogs, or even patriotism, but you have things built into you that you cannot remove or turn your back on. These are legacies.


  • a thing handed down by a predecessor. (Eg."the legacy of centuries of neglect")

Dr. James Dobson identifies that while a heritage is something one gives to someone, a legacy is something built into someone or a group of people. A thing given can be refused, returned, or squandered, but something built into a person becomes a part of them. Early Americans had such a connection to the concept of America that taking any part of it away from them would be like removing a part of their very body or soul.

Presidents have always concerned themselves with the legacy of their presidency. They are not looking for what they can give the country they serve, but how will they affect the very lives of the people they serve. They seek to build into the very fabric of society, law, or politics something that will live in perpetuity?

Jesus was given of the Father to serve as the propitiation of our sins, a heritage to those who will accept the free gift; Jesus came and lived a sinless life that we might seek to emulate Him - Legacy.

Jesus lived an example-life, so we could see how to live, love, serve, seek, and share. Jesus started the purpose-ball rolling on showing us a purpose-driven life and life-style. His life was not only intended to give us an example, but to motivate us to be like Him. Jesus is the example and we who follow Him (the Church) and allow Him to abide in us (the Saved) have a compulsion to be like him. We are not very good at emulating Him, but we sure want to. This is the Legacy of Christ.

Jesus was given as a heritage and becomes a legacy as he changes us.

So, as my wife put it: Jesus was given as a heritage and becomes a legacy as he changes us.

There is much more that goes with this story, but for now let us start by acknowledging that God moves Christians, not by what He offers them, but by building within them, using the power and authority of His holy word and the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit.

So how is this significant to us as parents? Just as Christ is the legacy-builder of the church, parents are the legacy-builders of their children. Psalm 78:4 tells us that we are to openly reveal to our children all that we know about God.

The first thing we know is John 3:16, so starting with a heritage from God we can follow a pattern that leads to a legacy.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (Heritage)

Then there is a transition from heritage to legacy

John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (Transition)

Next, the legacy is manifest in their spiritual DNA

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (fulfillment of John 1:12), and all these things will be added to you. (legacy)

God will add to those who follow this process - His provision.

David Guzik says these things are: heavenly treasure, rest in divine provision, and His fulfillment of one’s highest purpose according to God, which is to fellowship with Him, and be part of His kingdom.

This is the legacy of a Christian

Therefore the legacy that one wants to build for his family is one where the example-set points to the process of:

1. John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)

2. John 1:12

Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

3. Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Understand Parents, children are not born with an innate desire to seek God. Initially, every child should be brought up in such a way that they understand that “my family is Christian”. This concept must be built in them from the moment they are born. They will look to you to see and learn how a Christian experiences God, adjust to life circumstances, approaches relationships, and seeks God in the struggle. They are to see you live-out the legacy of Christ in every action of your life. As you let the Lord build in you a Christian worldview, you must build that same concept in your children. It will make it that much easier for them to progress through the heritage – transition – legacy plan of God.

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