Leaving a Legacy of Christian Generosity by Dr. Gary G. Hoag
Lessons in Modeling Christian Generosity
A dear friend, John Stanley, asked me about my family while we were fly fishing a few years back, and I shared what my grandparents and parents had done to leave a legacy of Christian generosity. He inspired me to write about it. Fly fishing with him again recently inspired me to release this post sharing five intentional actions that shape my generous living.
They told me inspiring stories.
Since my childhood, I watched shows every Christmas season, and my favorite one has always been the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. At a young age, I learned that that movie was based on the real-life generosity of people like my great grandparents, John and Edna Pease Hoag.
John and Edna built up multiple businesses that put a lot of people to work during the first part of the 20th century. In so doing, they amassed great wealth. What makes their story so interesting is that they gave it all away to save their town during the Great Depression. They were heroes, and they were my grandparents! Their peers were so grateful that they erected a monument in front of City Hall in Rocky River, Ohio, so their legacy would inspire future citizens.
I learned John and Edna would often say, “Our wealth is like a cup. God filled it for us to have something to enjoy and share.” Over the years, I heard more stories of how God filled their cups, again and again, to have resources to enjoy and share over and over. When our children were 12 and 13, my wife, Jenni, and I took them to see it (photo above).
They set an example.
As I grew up, I repeatedly heard my grandparents or parents say, “We want to teach you what it means to be a Hoag: when God blesses us with resources, and the church or ministries have financial needs, we get to give.” And when they supported a project, they kept their giving a secret to others and yet they told us what they did to teach us “what it means to be a Hoag.” Their lives inspired me to follow their example.
They taught me how to steward assets and how to give.
When each of the six grandchildren turned 21, Grandma Hoag gave me $10,000 worth of stock. Grandpa Hoag had passed away, and my parents assisted with this effort. The gift came with these instructions: “Set up a brokerage account and show us the balance in a year. If you squander it, you will never see another dime.” They aimed to teach me about stewarding dividends and stock splits, avoiding capital gains, and more.
A year later, they gave me another $10,000 in stocks and said, “You may use some of these funds to buy an appreciating asset like a home someday and use part of the stocks for your giving.” This exercise taught me I could give more by giving appreciated stock instead of cash. What a life lesson! Later, the shares of stock helped my wife and me buy our first home while enabling us to minimize taxes and maximize our charitable giving. That’s all the money they ever left me, and they gave it while they were living to help me (and my wife) get a place to live and learn how to give.
They passed on a rich inheritance in the biblical sense of the word.
In the world, money solves all our problems, which is why people stockpile it, put their hope in it, and think a boatload of it is the best inheritance. God’s Word says something different. Proverbs 13:22 says that “a good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children,” and Scripture defines inheritance much more broadly. In the Bible, inheritance is best linked to three things: a place (“land”), a trade (“work”), and a deep faith (“Christ”). Wise stewards, from God’s perspective, give an inheritance worth far more than money.
Proverbs 20:21 adds that “an inheritance claimed too soon will not be blessed at the end,” or in plain terms, leaving your children a lump of money before they have learned how to steward resources will only ruin them. Stories like The Prodigal Son reinforce this. On our family land, they taught me how to work, earn a living, and use the funds I earned according to God’s purposes: living, giving, serving, and loving. They also taught me that life was not found in money but in Christ. In teaching me how to live and work along with what to believe, they gave me the greatest biblical inheritance of all.
They stored up everything in heaven.
My grandparents are with the Lord. And before my parents sold their house in Ohio to relocate to Florida to live near my brother, they had almost no money. They apologized for this, yet I told them I was proud of them for storing everything in heaven. When they sold their house, they called, “Gary, what do we do? We’ve never had this much money.” I said, “Use it to relocate and store the rest up in heaven as you’ve been doing.”
What legacy will you leave?
I suggest it you tell stories, set the example, teach your children and grandchildren how to steward assets and how to give, pass on a rich inheritance in the biblical sense of the word, and store up everything in heaven. Do this, and you, too, will leave a legacy that will shape generations after you!
Gary G. Hoag, Ph.D., serves as President & CEO of Global Trust Partners (GTP). In obedient service to Jesus Christ, GTP multiplies faithful stewards and mobilizes peer accountability groups (like ECFA in USA) to build trust and to grow local generous giving to God’s work. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a coaching session with me about leaving a legacy.
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