This weekend is the third and final message within our series on stewardship. We have looked at two principles so far – of IDENTITY, as seen in Ecclesiastes 2; of RESPONSIBILITY, as seen in 2 Corinthians 8. Finally, we will examine the LEGACY principle – turning on Sunday to Matthew 25:14-30.
I believe that in my lifetime I have heard critics of every President of the USA say something like this: “He only cares about his legacy,” or “The only reason he is doing that is because of the legacy of his presidency.”
So, is that a good thing, or a bad thing?
Actually, it could be either, depending upon the attitude, I suppose. If a President is interested in his legacy in terms of how he will be remembered personally, then doing things for self-aggrandizement and personal reward is rather arrogant and self-focused. But if the POTUS does something because he wants the legacy surrounding his presidential leadership and administration to be known for accomplishing great good for the benefit of the country, then that is a worthy interest for the record that will remain.
When I was a child growing up, I clearly remember a wooden plaque on the wall of my parents’ house that simply said, “One life ‘twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”
My parents really lived by that, as did my father’s parents and generations before him. I recently had reason to rehearse for someone about my family’s involvement in a variety of ministries in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and even one in Maryland. My grandparents were rather successful in varied agricultural pursuits, and they took from their income what was needed to live a comfortable, yet simple life. The rest of it – the vast majority of it – they simply gave away to Christian causes near and far. They lived just across the street from me, and I remember as a boy having my grandmother show me all of the colorful stamps she had collected from all over the world – having done so from supporting and corresponding with missionaries on every continent. Their generosity is a legacy of trust and faithfulness I have received from them.
We have talked and illustrated at church on several occasions about how, even in one’s own family system, unless you do something truly extraordinary, you will be forgotten in four or five generations. And surely any generosity will be lost as well, again, unless it was more extraordinary than any of us are likely to be able to provide. And that is kind of depressing, isn’t it?
But God is so much better than this. He does not forget. What we give to Him for the purposes of eternal values and the building of the eternal kingdom is not forgotten. As we studied just weeks ago in the book of Hebrews, those readers in the first century were questioning the value of anything beyond the creature comforts of their own lives in their own generation. But the writer said to them to endure, because “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Hebrews 6:10)
We can be really glad that God is the best bookkeeper ever!
But it all comes down to a heart issue and a values system. Jesus rightly commented that a person’s heart and their treasure are not separated. And when we value those things that God values – the stuff of the eternal kingdom of light – the use of our treasure to prosper that becomes a legacy we can never lose. It may well bless our family for several generations, but even if it is forgotten by them and we are forgotten by everyone in the world of the living, we are not forgotten by God, nor is our work lost.
In preparation for Sunday, here is the text from Matthew 25:14-30 that we will be talking about …
14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’
21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’
23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’