Today, I turn 26 years old. As of today, I have lived a quarter of a century on this Earth. While I still consider myself “young,” I’m increasingly aware of the fact that I’m not as young as I used to be, and that time seems to fly past me at a higher pace than it did when I was 12.
As I reflect on 25 years of living, seven of them as a Christian, I’m sobered by thoughts of life, death, legacy and eternity.
In 100 years, I will be dead. In 100 years, you will be dead. And in 100 years, most of you reading this will not be remembered. Your name will likely not make it into the history books, and the story of your life will be carried on only by those who knew you, if they remember it enough to tell it.
Happy birthday to me, right? Why in the world would we want to think of these things at such a young age? Because remembering our mortality and the futility of striving after worldly success helps us live wisely in the time we’ve been given.
Perhaps nothing secular has affected me, and many more, the way Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” has affected me. I’ve spoken about it before, if I’m not mistaken. If you’re not familiar with the Broadway play, Miranda fuses the story of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton with hip-hop/R&B musical stylings.
Hamilton is driven by the desire to leave a legacy. For those of you who’ve forgotten 8th grade history, I’ll remind you (spoiler alert) that Hamilton was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr. In Hamilton’s dying speech in the play, he says: “What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see. I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me…”
Hamilton’s desire resonates with me, and with most of us, I believe. We want to be remembered. We want to leave a legacy. But, as Ecclesiastes 1:9 puts it, “there is nothing new under the sun.” We find that, as we strive to leave a legacy, we are largely unsuccessful.
Think of the millions of boys who play high school football each year. Of those millions of players, less than 2,000 will go on to play professional football, as the 32 teams in the NFL only have room for 53 players each. That’s a lot of boys, intent on leaving their legacy, that find that it’s not possible. Not in that way.
But let’s say you’re successful in leaving a legacy. You’re like Alexander Hamilton, who has his face on our currency after helping start our country and shaping American government for centuries. I think it’s safe to say he left a legacy.
But fast-forward with me to eternity. In God’s kingdom, there will be no America. There will be no national bank. There will be no New York Post. And people will not be discussing the Federalist Papers. Hamilton’s legacy, and your legacy, and my legacy, cannot survive into an eternity that is built on God’s legacy and God’s glory.
So, in light of that, what does it mean to leave a legacy? Should we leave a legacy?
Simply put, yes. But not in the same way the world leaves a legacy. We instead should live lives that impact eternity by making disciples and advancing the kingdom of God, leaving a godly legacy.
We recognize the Kingdom of God may not be here in the same way it will when Christ returns, but that it did come in part with the Incarnation. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel!” in Mark 1. And we are part of that kingdom, and we reflect and represent that kingdom. We care about what the King cares about: showing grace, working for justice, peace, taking care of the least of these, etc.
Reflecting the principles of the kingdom and bringing the world closer to that kingdom is great. However, being an example of kingdom principles and instituting them in our community is pointless without the gospel. We must share the gospel. Living godly lives that adorn the kingdom and committing ourselves to social justice and advancing God’s kingdom without sharing that which alone can bring men and women into the kingdom is stupid. Don’t do it.
It is far greater, and far more meaningful, in the grand scheme of things, to share the gospel with one person who comes to know Jesus than anything Alexander Hamilton accomplished in his lifetime. Why? Because the United States Treasury never saved anyone from hell. Not to take away from the great things Hamilton was able to accomplish here, but you and I have a chance to plant seeds in the garden of eternity, to write some notes at the beginning of a song that will be sung for all eternity. Now that is a legacy.
You will leave a godly legacy to the extent that you dedicate your life to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, live for Him and advance His kingdom. Commit to work that matters, work that allows you to live out kingdom ideals and bring the kingdom of God to bear in your community. Day by day infiltrate enemy territory with the gospel that can save souls and a kingdom without end.
Lord, may we not take life for granted. May we reflect the ideals of your kingdom in our personal lives, and seek to institute those ideals into our communities and cities and nations. May we share the gospel so others can join us in your kingdom. May we leave a godly legacy that lasts for eternity.