What You Leave Behind
There is an old story about two men who were standing and watching a funeral procession of a very wealthy man in their area as it was on its way to the cemetery. One of the men watching the procession said, “I wonder how much he left behind?” To which the other man replied, “All of it!”
While some cultures have burial practices that involve putting food and provisions with the body of the dead person so that they will have something for the journey ahead, even when discovered thousands of years later the provisions are just as they were at the time of burial – untouched and unused. It is true that you probably will never see a U-Haul Trailer hooked to a hearse. We leave everything behind.
That is not the end of the story of what we leave behind. For the Scripture says, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth: yea,” saith the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them,” (Rev. 14:13). When you are gone, you are gone. But when you are gone, your influence can remain and do great things for the Kingdom of God. Both what you leave and where you leave it makes a difference. Take a moment to think about these two questions – what and where.
Think about the what, the foundation component. Most of the time when we think about what we leave behind, we think of the material possessions, money and investments that we have accumulated, if any. But of more importance than thousands or millions of dollars is the spiritual foundation that you leave for family, friends and even those who may not ever have the opportunity to know you personally. The Bible says, “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 3:11). Your walk, work and witness for Christ form a foundation that no one can steal and it will last forever. It is the most significant thing that you can leave to your children, grandchildren or acquaintances. It is the fact that you knew Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He was the strength of your life, the foundation of what you did and your promise for everything in the future.
Decades ago I received a call from a family wanting to know if I would be willing to preach the funeral of their dad. I had never met any of these people in the family and was called because of a mutual acquaintance who told them that I might be able to help. I went to meet the family at the funeral home as they were making arrangements for the service. Not knowing them or their dad who had passed away, I wanted to spend some time with them and get a sense of who he was and who they were.
During the conversation, I asked them if there was any outstanding thing or things that he loved and had given his life to that they wanted me to mention during the funeral. I soon found that this man had no church affiliation and no evidence of faith in his life which broke my heart. Even more tragic was the fact that neither his spouse nor children had any clue about anything spiritual. None of them had a relationship with Jesus. The conversation continued until finally one of the older kids spoke up and said, “Well I would say two things about him. He loved his country, and he loved golf.” That was about it as far as what he had left for his prosperity. At the funeral his coffin was draped with the American flag. The casket was open, a putter had been placed by his side, and that was his legacy.
The foundation that is most important is one that is higher, better and eternal in nature. It is a living relationship with Jesus Christ. Now before you think about getting with an attorney or financial advisor to decide where you want your resources to go when you are gone, I would encourage you to spend time with the Lord and allow Him to examine what kind of spiritual foundation you are leaving for others.
While my mom and dad left very little earthly goods behind, I am forever blessed and impacted by their lives of faithfulness to the Lord. My dad preached the Word of God and shared the saving power of Jesus with multitudes. My mom loved the Word of God and shared with people the care of Jesus. The foundation of your life resting on Christ is the most important thing that you can leave to others.
The second component is where you will leave your resources. I would ask you to be thoughtful of your family. In the biblical culture, this is often seen as a dad would plan to bless his children and his children’s children. You will recall in Luke 15 when Jesus gave the Parable of the Prodigal Son, it began with a boy wanting his inheritance before it was time. Out of love, the father divided his inheritance. The boy took his part and headed off to the far country.
You can make a difference in your children’s lives by leaving behind some resources to help them along the way. Out of fear that their children will squander everything, some parents decide that they will not leave anything. And certainly there are times when nothing is left to be left. I have even seen signs on a big boat or RV saying, “We are spending our children’s inheritance.” While it is certainly right that you live while you are living and enjoy life the best that you can, there is also a sense of care and future blessings that you need to consider for your children.
The one final consideration of where you might leave some of your resources is to consider faith. While there are probably hundreds of thousands of different foundations and opportunities for charitable work, for the believer it might be the greatest blessing to think about your church and its ministries and missions and how your resources could reach far beyond your lifespan to make a difference in people’s lives just as your life has been blessed. Christian schools, childcare, hospitals and mission programs can all be strengthened, endowed and undergirded for decades after your life has ended.
Keep in mind that the principles by which you live and the biblical guidance in your daily stewardship can go on blessing the work of God by what you leave behind. You may wonder how you can go about doing that. The Mississippi Baptist Foundation exists in part to help you think through what you want to do. You are the decision maker that controls what you have now and what will be done with what you leave behind. It might be worth a call today as you think about the day that you are on the way to the cemetery. Someone may ask, “I wonder how much he left behind?” The answer can be, “All of it, but oh what a difference it is going to make!”