Note: This article, an excerpt from Giving It All Away…And Getting It Back Again (Zondervan), is the latest in a series highlighting resources for classrooms and churches. See more resources at the book website.
What I’ve Learned That’s Most Important
I love British cricketer and missionary C. T. Stud’s poem “Only One Life.” The one line that really gets me is “Only what’s done for Christ will last.” I have committed myself fully to this. I believe that God has placed us on this earth to work, to earn, and to care for those he has entrusted to us. Yet I also believe that we are put on this earth to give, to devote ourselves to a radical brand of generosity that changes lives and leaves a legacy. To paraphrase God’s words to patriarch Abraham, we are blessed so that we can be a blessing.
But what do we mean when we talk about being blessed? In our culture, this might be interpreted as financial blessing. And certainly finances can be part of it. I believe, however, that the blessing God talks about encompasses so much more. Since I have been exceptionally blessed in my life, I have determined to give exceptionally as well. And what about the other ways in which I’ve been blessed?
I could go on. I’m sure you could too.
When I consider all of the blessings I’ve been given, it’s hard for me not to pause and thank my Lord and my God. His heart is generous. His blessings are wide and rich.
People may know my name now, but I started out like any Joe. Humble beginnings, working hard. But, as God would have it, my story took a turn. It was a turn marked by a faith that pushed me to my limits. Through it all, I learned to trust, and that trust led me onto a path of generosity. I look forward to telling some of the story of this journey in the pages of this book.
My second purpose is to offer the lessons my wife, Barbara, and I learned while trying to fashion a legacy for those who come after us in our family.
I realize that running a billion dollar company doesn’t exactly make me just one of the guys from a purely financial standpoint. Money tends to separate us in our culture, and that’s unfortunate because I’m just like you. I get up every day, spend time with God, kiss my wife, eat some breakfast, and go to work.
I’m just a man. I started my career working retail, stocking shelves. I got married and started a family. I’ve lost sleep wondering about the future of my wife and kids. Now I’m entering that area of the baton exchange, and I want to do it well. I want us all to do it well. I want my grandchildren to grow up understanding that generosity begins with an attitude that extends into every aspect of life, not just money. I want them to understand that today begins their legacy. Because if there’s one thing I’ve discovered, it’s that true wealth encompasses all of life.
That’s the big idea. I believe we can chart a course for our lives and our families that allows us to think beyond one generation. We can outline our vision, mission, and values. And we can live that out through our generosity. These ideas will allow us to stay rich for generations—not just in a monetary sense but in a values sense.
Some of you reading this are standing in shoes similar to my own. You are nearing the end of your life, wondering how to finish well and leave a legacy that will bless your family and those they interact with for generations to come. Some of you are just starting out in life, taking your first steps toward those dreams and plans.
Whether you’re at the end or the beginning of life, I want to challenge you to do three things:
- Work with all your heart, for God and not for men.
- Hold those plans lightly, because you really have no idea what the Lord has in store.
- Consider now what you want your legacy to be. It is not too early to begin.
The decisions you make today will affect the legacy you leave behind. Whether you are a young business man who has found himself encountering what the world sees as success both in career and family life, or a young woman who recently graduated and has no idea what is in front of you, today is the right day to make your decisions in light of the truth that God owns it all. Live your life in this world while investing your wealth in the next.