In Proverbs 13:22, King Solomon wrote: “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” A grandchild’s inheritance, which is the grandparent’s legacy, was important enough for the wisest man in the world to mention. But what do these words mean for you and me? To find an answer to this question, we need to carefully think about what we’ll leave behind once we meet God face to face, especially if we have grandkids. After all, what we pass along to them might have an impact not only in their lives but also the lives of their children and grandchildren.
What is a “legacy”?
Like death and taxes, leaving a legacy is an area in life where you really don’t have a choice. As a parent, you will pass on an inheritance of some kind to your kids and grandkids. The type of inheritance, though, depends on you.
All too often people tend to think of their legacy in terms of money. That’s an unfortunate mistake. Consider what Proverbs has to say on the subject (13:22), along with the words of Jesus and Paul concerning true wealth (Matthew 6:19, 20; 1 Timothy 6:6-10). When we read these verses together, we realize it’s better to build healthy values, virtues and character in our kids and grandkids than load them down with material possessions.
Bronnie Ware, an Australian hospice nurse, wrote a book based on conversations with her patients called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. The second most common regret was wishing they had worked less and spent more time building relationships with their families. A study from the Pew Research Center also notes that grandparents in America are far less likely to help care for their grandchildren than grandparents in countries such as Italy and Germany. This is because many older Americans are still in the work force.
If you are still working, and even if part of your goal is to leave a financial legacy, remember that the time you spend with your family is most important. Your involvement in their lives could have eternal impact on their souls, which is one outcome you’ll never regret.
• Watch for opportunities to know and be known.
• Model and teach what’s important (prayer, focus, relationships, time).
• Speak life into your family, your kids and your grandchildren.
• Share what you have learned along the way and pass along knowledge from your life so they can transfer it to wisdom.
Watching for opportunities
How can you leave a good legacy? The answer is as simple as it is challenging: You need to learn how to balance intentionality with grace. In other words, have a deliberate plan, but be flexible. It’s often said that values are caught rather than taught, because who you are and what you believe is what will rub off on your grandchildren as you invite your kids and their families into your life.
As you do this, be careful not to push too hard or intrude in your children’s families. Get-togethers on special occasions and their invitation for other activities will give you enough opportunities to enjoy your grandchildren and share your heart. Counselor Jim Groesbeck and his multi-generational family have what they call a “sacred time” together every couple of months. But as a rule, it’s best to avoid the overly formal approach and wait for teachable moments.
Time is of the essence. If you’re never around, your grandkids won’t have the chance to “catch” anything from you. They need to be able to see who you are and what you hold as important. So make a point of spending quality and quantity time with them, and speak into their lives while they are still young. And if you feel the legacy you’ve created for your grown children is lacking, know that it’s never too late to start over and re-establish the connection.