10 Legacies Fathers Can—and Should—Pass Down to Their Sons

Brent Rinehart

On the hit show “This is Us,” legacy is a big theme. It’s not mentioned directly, but many of the characters are dealing with it. If you aren't familiar with the show, Jack Pearson dies in a house fire, leaving behind his three teenage children. Much of the show is the current day, revealing bits and pieces of the storylines in scenes from the past. All three children—two biological and one adopted— are chasing after or otherwise dealing with the legacy of their hero father. Jack Pearson always seemed to have the perfect words to redeem any moment. He always knew exactly what to do and how to respond to any situation. His kids were left with an image of a pretty infallible man—a legacy they each have challenges living up to.

The show strikes a chord with many viewers because the characters seem so real. They could be any of us, which is why the show is aptly titled. We can relate to these characters; we deal a lot with legacies ourselves.

Our parents have left their imprint on us, and we are leaving ours on our children. We will all leave a legacy, good or bad. Unfortunately, by the time the legacy is written, we no longer have the power to make any edits to the storyline. Now is the time to take inventory of the legacy we are writing for our children. What will they remember about us? What are we teaching them today that will make an impact on them tomorrow? Here are 10 legacies I believe fathers can—and should—pass on to their sons.

Financial responsibility in a spend-it-now world.

The Bible has a lot to say about money. In fact, it is estimated that there are more than 2,000 verses that reference money, finances or possessions. Needless to say, how we handle money (and how it handles us) is important to God. We live in a world that tells us to buy it now, even if you can’t afford it. Why wait when you can pay it off in 12 easy payments (with interest)? But, the Bible says, “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). Fathers, it’s important that we teach our children how to be financially responsible today so we can be generous with what God provides us. We learn in Luke 16:9: “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” In other words, use your money for something of eternal significance!

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Godliness in a godless culture.

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8). Godliness is not a trait that seems to be valued in today’s world. But, as followers of Christ, we know that nothing carries more weight. We have to be in the world and not of it and show our sons how to follow suit. God made us with a purpose: to live lives that reflect His character and show the world what He’s all about.

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Integrity when it's easier to go with the crowd.

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s often much harder. My daughter recently had to be punished for going along with the crowd and doing something she was told by her mom not to do. In the moment, it was easier for her to avoid conflict and not stand up to her friends. As Christians, God has called us to a high standard. He wants us to have “a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:16-17). This is a legacy we have to pass on to our children. They need to see us model this on a daily basis, so it becomes easier for them to emulate. “A righteous person acts with integrity;
his children who come after him will be happy” (Proverbs 20:7).

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Honesty amid the lies and falsehoods.

It’s hard to go a single day without hearing about “fake news.” When people speak constantly in half-truths (just like Satan himself), discerning the truth is harder and harder. You’ve heard it said that honesty is the best policy. Actually, it’s the only policy. “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord…” (Proverbs 12:22). In a world that accepts lies, we need to demand truth and teach our children to do the same.

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Respect for authority.

Naturally, most of us have a hard time with authority. We want to do things our way. It really comes down to arrogance and pride. But, God’s Word is specific about authority and our call to submit to it. “For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished” (Romans 13:1-2). I won’t get into the nuances here of evil leadership and when to stand firm. Most of us don’t have to confront those complex issues. We just have to deal with bosses, pastors, leaders and governments and submitting to people we simply don’t agree with. We need to train ourselves to have respect for authority so we can leave this legacy to our children.

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Love for all people, not just those like you.

 I’m a member of a community Facebook group for the town I live in. I’m mainly a part of it to stay up on community events, new restaurants and news updates. But, occasionally, controversy ensues when someone posts about politics. Recently, someone posted about the migrant caravan, and the onslaught of comments made me sick to my stomach. The undertones of hostility and hatred against other humans created in the image of God (Imago Dei, anyone?) was appalling. I’m not here to get in a political discussion about immigration—I am here to say that God is clear about our call to love people. It’s throughout Scripture. And, unless we pass this legacy on to our sons, their hearts will be bent toward darkness.

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How to treat your wife the way God wants you to.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). A few verses later, it says that husbands should love their wives “as their own bodies” (Ephesians 5:28). Fathers, if we want our sons to grow up to be good husbands, they need to see us living it out. There’s more caught than taught. They need to see us treating our wives with the love and respect they deserve. Better husbands in this world means better marriages, and better marriages in this world means better sons. And, on and on the cycle continues. Men, don’t miss the chance to have a lasting impact on your son’s future marriage.

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How to treat others the way God demands you should.

The Golden Rule—it’s such a widely accepted mantra that it exists in a variety of religions and cultures. Jesus preached it: “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them” (Luke 6:31). But, it seems easier for us to say it than it is for us to live it, especially with the advent of online communication. Speaking harshly to each other comes easy behind the veil of a screen. One of my favorite verses is Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Fathers, this is a concept we’d do well to pass on to our kids.

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How to treat yourself the way God treats you.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God loves us so much. If He had a heavenly refrigerator, our picture would be on it, alongside our sloppy artwork made of dried macaroni. Despite our shortcomings, He gave everything for us. That’s amazing. We need to let this fact permeate us and change us from the inside out. It should give us a fresh perspective of confidence and self-respect. We need to take care of our bodies—our temples—and show our kids why that’s important. This includes our physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

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The Good News of the Gospel.

This is the most important legacy you can leave to your children— knowledge of the good news of Jesus Christ. You can’t save your kids; it’s the work of triune God. But, you can teach them about the Gospel and live it out in your own life. Our children are going to make their own decisions and mistakes. It’s up to us as parents to give them a solid foundation—a soil receptive to the Gospel seeds planted in their youth. Of all the legacies you can leave your children, this is the one of eternal significance.

Brent Rinehart is a public relations practitioner and freelance writer. He blogs about the amazing things parenting teaches us about life, work, faith and more at You can also follow him on Twitter.

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