I met the Green family once — we had dinner under a starry sky in Arizona. The most humble, kindest folks. David Green is the son of a pastor and grew up in small towns across the Midwest. He is soft-spoken, passionate about his faith, and dedicated to his family. David & his wife, Barbara, are the proud parents of two sons and one daughter, grandparents to ten, and great-grandparents to eight children. He is a down-to-earth guy who is pretty unassuming if you were to meet him on the street. But? He also happens to be the founder of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the largest privately owned arts and crafts retailer in the world. Through his journey of business success, he has learned a thing or two about what real legacy means. It’s a grace to welcome David to the farm’s front porch today…
It has often brought a smile to my face to think that if Hobby Lobby had existed during the years I was growing up, my mother might never have darkened the door of one of our stores.
Her attention was fixed on beautiful things of another kind, like our family, and her spending was limited by the challenging life she and my father chose to live.
My childhood was shaped by my father’s work as a pastor in rural churches across Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma.
In a practice that was common among religious denominations at that time, Dad was assigned to a new church about every two years. For me, this meant eight different schools by the time I finished high school.
None of these churches ever seemed to grow much larger than a hundred souls.
As a result, small towns, small churches, and small incomes defined our lives, making it a constant challenge for my parents to care for our family of eight.
We usually lived in a two bedroom house. With five siblings, that meant my brother and I often made do with a rollaway bed in the kitchen.
We never had a car. Our parents assured us that we each had two good feet to get us where we needed to be.
Generous cousins frequently sent secondhand clothes, so my parents had to provide only underwear and socks for us.
I don’t say any of this to complain.
I’m grateful for the life my family lived when I was a boy.
I am the son of two people whose feet were firmly planted in this world and yet who kept their eyes and hearts fixed on the world to come. A deep and unshakable faith in Jesus Christ flowed from my parents and filled our home. It was in their lifeblood.
What I learned from the fierce faith of my parents has shaped every day of my life since.
I can still remember hearing their voices raised in prayer and how they cried out to God for their children and for the lost people of our various communities.
They trusted in Jesus Christ completely, and because they did, we saw an almost unceasing stream of miracles. My faith grew as I saw God faithfully provide for our needs again and again.
As surprising as it may sound, my parents were also some of the most generous people I’ve ever known.
This may not seem to fit the picture I’ve painted of their spare living and meager income, but it was true.
I had seen evidence of my parents’ generosity through the years in a thousand different ways. Mother might have only three or four dresses in her closet, but if she heard of a woman who needed one, you could be sure Mother would soon arrive at the woman’s doorstep with a dress in hand.
Such acts were repeated time and again.
More than anyone else, my mother taught me the difference between what is temporal and what is eternal. It says in James 4:14, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”
Mother understood that life in this world is short and that only what is done for God will last. Her unswerving emphasis on this truth is probably the reason that all of my brothers and sisters eventually went into some form of full-time ministry.
I can see how my legacy began with my parent’s example of fierce faith and contentment.
They knew what God wanted them to do, and they did it with everything they had. I learned from their radical generosity.
They gave from nothing.
It’s one thing to give from full coffers, quite another to give back to God what He’s given to you monetarily. Their generosity is etched into my heart.
My mother gave me a heavenly perspective. She was my equalizer. She gave me eyes to see the difference between what carries temporal significance and what carries eternal worth. I might have shrugged and hem-hawed while learning it, but looking back I now see how my mom taught me discernment.
Everyone will leave a legacy.
The legacy my parents left is based on eternal thinking – wanting to invest in those things that last forever, which we believe is man’s soul, and God’s Word.
They also wanted to pass on the values they held that shaped their eternal perspective. This part of their legacy is made of invisible things.
I believe we can chart a course for our lives and our families that allows us to think beyond one generation.
We can outline our vision, mission, and values. And we can live that out through our generosity. These ideas will allow us to stay rich for generations – not just in a monetary sense but in a values sense.
Consider now what you want your legacy to be.
The decisions you make today affect the legacy you leave behind. Today is the right day to make your decisions in light of the truth that God owns it all.
Live your life in this world while investing in the next.
As my mother always said:
“Only one life
‘Twill soon be past
Only what’s done
For Christ will last.”
David Green is the founder of Hobby Lobby. In 1970 David borrowed $600 to buy a molding chopper, set up shop in his garage at home, and started making miniature wooden picture frames. Today, Hobby Lobby employs more than 32,000 people, operates 750 stores in 47 states, and has become the largest privately owned arts and crafts retailer in the world.
David has a new book, Giving It All Away…and Getting It All Back Again, that shares his incredible heart, vision and legacy, and it is my prayer that his book causes all of us to deeply think about the legacy we are leaving behind… A book I’ve been anxiously waiting to get my hands on — because this is sorta the crux of everything. A great family read.
[ Our humble thanks to Zondervan for their partnership in today’s devotion ]