We all want our lives to have some sort of impact. If it’s not in the workplace, then it may be at home with our kids, in the community, or a variety of other places.

Wherever it is, the human condition causes us to have this deeply rooted need for our lives to actually mean something…   to leave a legacy.

Stephen Covey points out that,

“There are certain things that are fundamental to human fulfillment. The essence of these needs is captured in the phrase ‘to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy’…   the need to leave a legacy is our spiritual need to have a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence, and contribution.”

None of us wants to leave this world thinking that our lives meant nothing. So we strive to develop our legacy, and that happens through how well we influence others here and now.

The test of how well we do in this aspect of our lives happens well after we’re gone. As we continue with studying lessons from leaders, we come to the account of Tola and Jair as recorded in Judges 10:1-6.

Here we have two leaders of Israel who had virtually nothing recorded about their reigns. Each had ruled for over 20 years, but neither left a worthwhile legacy for the nation of Israel to pass down as the other Judges did. Let’s take a look at three ways that we can identify from the text that they sabotaged their own influence and legacy…

1.  Failure to Develop Others
One of the things that’s apparent from the text is that there’s no mention of other people that they helped to develop into future leaders. If we truly want to have an influence on others, then we must take the time to teach them, and develop them to pick up wherever we leave off. When I think about this principle, I most easily see it illustrated in the life of my son. When I take the time to teach him important life skills, a piece of me ends up living on through him. Failing to take the time to develop other people will guarantee that you have no impact through them.

2.  Have a Short-Sighted Vision
While both of these men had very successful and long reigns, neither of them though about the future after they were gone. The text continues after Jair’s death with the statement that, “then the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord” (v.6). It’s apparent that they worked to keep things running smoothly while they were there, but did not work to ensure that the people would continue to do good after they were gone. A great leader will think longer-term than what the immediate situation calls for.

3.  Focus Only on Reputation
The fact that nothing negative was recorded about these men leads me to believe that they actually had a good reputation. There just simply wasn’t anything bad to say about them. But is this enough? Isn’t that really settling for mediocrity? When the history of your life, job, family, etc. is written, would you want it to appear like the records of Tola and Jair? You may never give anyone a reason to say anything bad about you now, but are you giving them reason enough to say something about who you were and what you stood for once you’re gone?

For my final thought on this topic, I leave you with another quote. Billy Graham says,

“Our days are numbered. One of the primary goals in our lives should be to prepare for our last day. The legacy we leave is not just in our possessions, but in the quality of our lives. What preparations should we be making now? The greatest waste in all of our earth, which cannot be recycled or reclaimed, is our waste of the time that God has given us each day.”

See more from the management by God series!
Note: This post was published in Christian Professional Magazine (no longer in print).

[management by God] 3 guaranteed ways to sabotage your influence

by Dan King time to read: 3 min
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