Parenting is messy. In the routine, day-to-day messiness of raising your children, How intentional are you about leaving a godly legacy?
What is a Godly Legacy?
A young family in our church recently moved to another part of the state. Their 5 precious children, ages 12 to 5 are well-loved by our church family. Before they left, I sensed to share with them how the legacy they are sowing into their children have impacted all of us.
This family’s example reminded me of a study I’d read contrasting the legacies of two men in the 1700s: one godly, one corrupt and immoral. At the turn of the 20th century, educator A. E. Winslip decided to trace the descendants of these men 150 years after their deaths.
Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards and his wife, Sarah, parented 11 children. Edwards was one of the most respected preachers and educators in his day, shaping a critical role in the First Great Awakening in 1733-35.
Five Generation Rule
The story of Edwards is an example of what some sociologists call the five-generation rule. Mark Merrill writes, “How a parent raises their child — the love they give, the values they teach, the emotional environment they offer, the education they provide — influences not only their children but the four generations to follow,” either for good or evil..
Jonathan and Sarah Edwards’ legacy
- 1 U.S. Vice-President,
- 1 Dean of a law school,
- 1 dean of a medical school,
- 3 U.S. Senators,
- 3 governors,
- 3 mayors,
- 13 college presidents,
- 30 judges,
- 60 doctors,
- 65 professors,
- 75 Military officers,
- 80 public office holders,
- 100 lawyers,
- 100 clergymen,
- and 285 college graduates.
Max Jukes’ legacy came to the forefront when the family trees of 42 different men in the New York prison system traced back to him. Jukes lived in New York at about the same period as Edwards. The Jukes family originally was studied by sociologist Richard L. Dugdale and described in a book he published in 1877.
Max Jukes’ Legacy
- 7 murderers,
- 60 thieves,
- 128 prostitutes (50 of these women averaging 15 years of harlotry),
- 140 other convicts,
- 280 indigents and
- 440 who were physically wrecked by indulgent living through addiction to alcohol.
- Out of the 1,200 descendants studied, 300 died prematurely.
- 67 were reported to have contracted syphilis.
- Moreover, it was estimated that Jukes’ descendants cost the state approximately $1,308,000.
The apple never falls too far from the tree….
Contrast in Parenting Styles
Edwards was a godly man, but he was also hard working, intelligent and moral. Acknowledging the importance of moms in raising children, Winship states, “Much of the capacity and talent, intensity and character of the more than 1,400 of Edwards’ family is due to Mrs. Edwards.”
In stark contrast, the almost universal traits of the Jukes’ were idleness, ignorance and vulgarity. These characteristics led to disease and disgrace, to pauperism and crime.
Our world needs more parents like Jonathan and Sarah Edwards.
If someone studied your descendants four generations from now, what would you want them to discover?
Will understanding the Five Generation Rule change your intentionality to parent?
The life you live determines the legacy you leave.
To help you with this challenge, here are a few resources you may look into.
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