Years ago our family spent some time in the Italian countryside. The narrow road winding up the hillside to our accommodation was lined both sides with a stand of towering oak trees. I never grew tired of driving through the ‘tunnel’ of oaks which changed with the seasons.
It’s unlikely that the person who planted those trees ever had the experience of driving through them when fully grown, as we did; yet I’m so glad that they made an investment into something for the generations that would follow.
For the good of future generations
Most people don’t live with a generational mindset. Companies make decisions based on how they will impact the next financial reporting period; western democratic governments often prioritise decisions that position them best for re-election rather than investing in something with long-term benefits.
However, in The Bible we read that God does thinks generationally; He sees the people within the people, and time and again we read that He says if you do this…I’ll bless your descendants to x generations.
I think one of the reasons we’re reluctant to live with a generational mindset is that it often requires sacrifices be made in the present for the good of future generations, and let’s face it, sacrifice isn’t a popular word in the 21st Century.
When I think of sacrifice I sometimes think of my grandfather (who was born at the end of the 19th Century) who served our nation in both World Wars. Even though my kids never met their great grandfather, today we live in the freedoms that he and many others fought for; indeed they paid the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of the generations that followed.
Don’t limit your influence to your lifetime
In Battle For the Loins, Paul Scanlon says, “Western societies don’t automatically think generationally like God does… we tend to think about ourselves… and concentrate only on the things we can do in our lifetime rather than giving much thought to those who will come after us.”
This challenges me to think about the choices that I’m making – physically, mentally, spiritually and relationally. I want to be around for my family and for all that God has for me to do. I also want to pass on a great legacy to my children and my children’s children. I can’t do that if, for example, I’m making poor health choices now – eating poorly, not exercising etc.
Sacrifices and choices for future generations
But what might sacrifice look like today? Sacrifice might mean getting up early to exercise, giving up or reducing some of our favourite foods that we know aren’t good for us. It might mean giving of our time to coach our child’s sports team, lead their youth group, or take one of our kids friends who may have lost a parent under our wing and mentor them.
Who knows what impact that investment of our time might have. To the child stuck in a generational pattern of poor choices, your influence could change the future of their family. But if we spend all our time and resources on pleasing ourselves, it’s unlikely that we’ll have a legacy beyond our life on this earth.
The future is shaped by the actions (and inactions) we take today. Make wise decisions with a generational perspective today and you’ll leave a positive legacy.