I just started reading I Chronicles, where the author begins by revealing his genealogical research into the 12 tribes of Israel. Hundreds of specific names are listed, along with the mention of tens of thousands of unnamed others. As I read through the names and occasional specific comments about a few, it came to mind that these were people just like us with families and friends, homes, and jobs of various sorts. They ate together, conversed with one another, and experienced both joys and hardships. No doubt their lives were full of activity and purpose; yet we know almost nothing about them. Memories of them long ago faded and as David says: “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” (Psalm 103:15-16 NIV) The only thing left is names on a page.
In our world today, most of us want to have significance, at minimum in the eyes of certain people. It is often what drives us. The reality, however, is that, regardless of how significant our lives are in our own minds or others, not much of our lives will be remembered by future generations. Even our grandchildren and great grandchildren will remember only a few things. And all the work done for our employers? Not very much.
What I was reminded of this morning was my significance cannot be found in what I do in my earthly life or how the world views me. Even in the best of circumstances, the memories of me after I leave this planet will be fleeting. Who will remember me, or you, 100 years from now? Not many, and perhaps none.
This is why our attempts to build reputations and legacies for ourselves via school, work, and social media are misguided. For example, on every university campus, there are buildings named after people who were significant enough (and wealthy enough) to receive this honor, and likely there is a portrait of them hanging in the foyer. Yet, very few students, faculty, or administrators, if any, know who they are. All that remains is a name and a portrait. In the end, these kinds of efforts are insignificant, won’t count for much, and we will have wasted much precious time.
Of course, it is always nice to have people speak well of us and appreciate us, but that should not be the aim of our lives. Rather, our focus should be on how significant we are to the Lord. For it is he, rather than the world, who will judge what we’ve done with our lives. And since he created us, he considers us significant, regardless of what anyone else thinks. We should focus, then, on pleasing him. In the verses quoted above, David immediately follows that with this reminder: “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.”(Psalm 103:17-18 NIV)
The only reputation or legacy we should seek to build is as a person who loves God, fears God, and lives a life of obedience. It is the only one that has true value and will carry over into Eternity. Everything else is insignificant in comparison.
© Jim Musser 2019