or: The Foolishness of future proofing
18I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, 19and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? 23For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.Ecclesiastes 2:18-23 English Standard Version
In the past those who sought to build a legacy for themselves and for their gods built physical structures as their contribution of worship that would outlast them for what may have felt like the foreseeable future. Often times these people themselves were considered to be their god’s exclusive representative on earth. Such was the case with Roman Emperors and Egyptian Pharaohs. When this thinking passed into Christianity, the apostles were considered God’s representatives, Peter being chief among them. For centuries the heirs of the apostles ruled together in relative peace over the body of Christ as the Church Fathers but when Peter’s successor claimed dominance over them all, the church split into East and West. During this time the old ways of the god’s representatives building structures of worship to the gods for their legacy re-entered the body of Christ. It resulted in the building of Cathedrals and monuments to God who, frankly, didn’t ask for His legacy to be built with sticks and stones. Some recognised this as foolishness and so insisted rather that God’s legacy was the people within the church and therefore the organisation of those people called the Church. This enshrined theological treatises, and legal codes of conduct that eventually came to characterise whole governments as God’s lasting legacy on earth. Like it or not, this is where we currently find ourselves in the 21st century–still believing that God’s legacy and, therefore, our inheritance, is wrapped up in the nations; in a word–power.
Can this be true? Does the legacy of the King of Kings hinge on the conduct of the governments of earth acknowledging His existence and therefore His political power to be exercised through His children who have inherited the birth right of that power? This seems like a resurgence of the pagan kingdom’s theology which we find recorded in the scriptures. An apparent cycle of representatives narrowing their rule to exclusivity and building massive structures to draw more people into the worship of the god whom they represent which may or may not characterise the God of the Bible. Is there a better way? Is our inheritance so feeble that to give up political power would be the proverbial selling of our birth right for a bowl of lentils? I think not.
We who claim the Scriptures as our source one of confirmed revelation from God know that the Scriptures have plenty to say about our inheritance and that none of what it says characterises the capricious flow of earthly political power. The adjectives used to describe God’s legacy are as follows: imperishable, unspoiled, unfading, reserved. By contrast here is an example of how the Word describes the brevity of life and His control over it.
15As for man, his days are like grass;Psalm 103:15-16 ESV
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding;Daniel 2:21 ESV
Do we have understanding? There is no legacy for us here on earth. Nothing that continues much the same as it was. All is changing including the times and the seasons. One day is hotter or colder than the next. One year full of storms and destruction and another full of gentler weather. The sun rises every day yet at a different time and falls again at a different time every night. One eon is full of war, pestilence and grief and another of peace, health and prosperity. Legacy by contrast speaks of unchanging transcendence that is present from the moment it is created it to the moment all things collapse into nothingness. In that vein let us continue the Psalms passage.
17But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,Psalm 103:17-19 ESV
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
19The LORD has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.
To claim to have any kind of legacy here on earth is to deny what we have just learned. The only one with true legacy is God. These truths set us up to explore how the Scriptures describe God directing the kingdoms of the earth.
The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord;Proverbs 21:1 NIV
He turns it wherever He wishes.
Judging from this verse and the one above from the book of Daniel, does it seem like God’s legacy is at stake when Christians are not in political power? Does the channel of water, even the people of God as His beloved children, have any say as to where we are channelled? Or does God pull the levers that redirect the flow of water in His fields that gives water to another part and redirects it away from another? He is the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords. The Master whose house we are building and whose fields we are tending; the house being the people of God and the field being the World. Our inheritance as the people of God is the righteousness that comes from Christ which is itself imperishable, unspoiled, unfading, and reserved for us in Heaven. He has extended this towards all people and their children and their children’s children.
Salvation effectively tears down all earthly kingdoms, not to set up a singular earthly kingdom where God is the King and we are His earthly subjects but where the benefits of citizenship to God’s Spiritual Kingdom extend to all humanity over the whole face of the earth regardless of political makeup. He moves people across seemingly impossible boundaries because, in actuality, those boundaries are not recognised in God’s Kingdom. He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous because there has never been a government nor will their be who can prevent it and believe me, we would if we could! He extends freedom to the captive, sight to the blind, and peace to the possessed at great personal cost to those who by virtue of exploiting those people for money reject His legacy and Kingdom in favour of building their own. This is the lunacy of legacy; that we would dare to think that in 80 to 100 years, or dare I say the whole of the 2000 years since Christ walked this earth, that we could build something financial, political, social or institutional to pass on to our children that was worth all of the unrighteousness it took to build it and that that legacy is worth more than the inheritance of the righteousness that comes from Christ Jesus.
Remember what Jesus taught about serving two masters? I encourage us to think of legacy when we read it. We cannot build two legacies, one will always cancel out the other.
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.Matthew 6:24 ESV