One of my greatest privileges is being the father of my three children. The older I become, the more I think about legacy. Let me share two stories with you that demonstrate the powerful legacy (both good and bad) that fathers create.
Several years ago a team of New York state sociologists attempted to calculate the influence of a father's life upon his family and future generations. The study included two specific men from the 18th century, Jonathan Edwards and Max Jukes.
Max Jukes rejected Christianity. He chose a life of unprincipled behavior and crime. Among his 1,200 descendants were:
• 440 lives of outright debauchery
• 310 paupers and homeless
• 190 public prostitutes
• 130 convicted criminals
• 100 alcoholics
• 60 habitual thieves
• 7 murderers
The research team concluded that not one of Max Jukes known relatives ever made a significant contribution to society. This notorious family cost the state of New York $1.2 million.
Jonathan Edwards is regarded as one of the most brilliant and influential men of American history. He was a gifted pastor and exceptional theologian. Edwards' preaching ignited the flame that led to the Great Awakening, and he later served as the president of Princeton College. Among his 1,394 male descendants were:
• 300 clergymen, missionaries or theology professors
• 120 college professors
• 60 doctors
• 60 authors
• 30 judges
• 14 college presidents
• Numerous giants on American industry
• 3 U. S. congressmen
• 1 vice-president of the United States
Numerous books have been written about Edwards' life, his work and influence on American history and his powerful professional legacy. But the legacy that Edwards would probably be most proud of is his legacy as a father.
Galatians 6:7-9 says "You will always harvest what you plant." Jonathan Edwards took his role as a father of his children very seriously and planted many seeds of godliness and integrity as a Christ-follower, and his family reaped the benefit.
Of course this doesn't mean that people are simply a product of their parenting and that who they are is determined entirely by their ancestry. There have been many who descended from men like Jukes and overcame great obstacles to succeed. Others have come from loving homes like Edwards' only to descend into a troubled adulthood. But these are the exceptions, not the rule.
Yet, the stories of Edwards and Jukes offer powerful lessons about the legacy we will leave as fathers, and they truly inspire me personally to live in such a way as to leave a godly legacy to my own children. Generations from now, it is likely that our professional accomplishments will be forgotten. But the way we parent today will directly affect not only our children, but also our grandchildren, and the generations that follow. What a legacy! We must never underestimate the power of a father's influence. (Source: Steve Lawson, The Legacy, Multnomah Books, 1998)