Article Apr 24, 2017

The gift of legacy: Three lessons from an intentional life

Mentors are important and have a significant impact on our lives. I happen to have the opportunity to consider someone special as a “mentor” of sorts. Some may know him as the founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby, some as a philanthropist, others as a face for religious freedom in America. I, on the other hand, just call him grandpa.

I’ve learned a lot from my grandpa, David Green. His simple, radical faith affects everything he does. He grew up in a home where his father was a pastor, and his mother was a prayer warrior. All five of his siblings went into ministry, either as pastor, evangelist or married to a minister. But grandpa’s path was a little different—he was gifted in retail, not preaching. His work in retail is the space where he lives out his faith and sees a role for businessmen and women in the work of the Kingdom of God.

I have the privilege of working in the company that grandpa started more than 40 years ago. There are many things I’ve learned from him over the years, but here are three specific lessons I’ve gleaned from his life:

1. The importance of humility

In his new book Giving It All Away, grandpa clearly states that all his success is God’s doing. He and my grandmother, Barbara Green, know this and say it to each other nearly every day. Grandpa truly has a heart of gratitude and demonstrates that a grateful attitude quickly removes any feelings of pride or entitlement that try to take root in our hearts.

It reminds me of Job 38:4 when God speaks to Job saying, "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding." The entire chapter is a powerful reminder of our place on this earth and of God’s sovereignty. Recognizing everything is God’s keeps our hearts humble. Understanding this truth frees us to hold everything with open hands before him declaring, “This life and everything in it is yours, do with it as you will.” It places us in a posture of humble stewardship over the blessings God gives or takes away.

2. The joy in living generously

I’ve seen my grandpa live with extravagant generosity out of a posture of stewardship. Even though the company earnings have been rising strongly for decades, my grandpa has chosen not to take a pay raise in 11 years. At the same time, he decided to dramatically increase the company’s minimum wage in an effort to care for the company’s employees. As a result of this, the company-wide minimum wage has seen a 57 percent increase over the past nine years. I see my grandpa’s joy when he talks about this. And this is just one example of how he runs his business, and lives, with a spirit of generosity.

But generosity isn’t solely financial. He has shown me that it applies to many areas of life. We’re to be generous with our time, money and resources. It doesn’t matter whether we give out of wealth or humble circumstances. When we live generously, it brings great joy. As Chip Ingram says, “Generosity is a gateway into intimacy with God.”

A legacy that matters is one that sees significance in the invisible aspects of what we pass on.

3. The significance of leaving a legacy

In his generosity, grandpa keeps in mind the difference between the temporal and the eternal. He wants to invest in those things that will last in eternity: namely, the souls of men and women, and God’s Word. That’s why the company donates 50 percent of pre-tax profits to charities that invest in these eternal things. With that being said, grandpa doesn’t talk about giving as some heroic feat. He believes it’s all God’s anyway. Psalm 24:1 reminds us: “The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.”

A legacy of true value, like grandpa’s, is more than money or possessions. A legacy that matters is one that sees significance in the invisible aspects of what we pass on: the faith once for all handed down to the saints (Jude 1:3). The unseen legacy becomes visible when we see it played out in life. Grandpa has shown me that the most important legacy he hopes to leave behind are generations that are living their lives for Jesus, using everything that we’ve been given—whether money, time or resources—for God’s glory. He’s truly the embodiment of C.T. Studd’s famous quote: “Only one life, it will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last,” and it’s a great joy to get to see this up close.