As I wrote last week, Alexander Hamilton in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s show urges his audience to take shots and to stand up for what they believe in. Woven throughout the story, however, is another message. Not one that comes explicitly from any of the characters but one that comes from Miranda himself.
He understands that being forgotten is a universal fear. We all hope to be remembered. We all pale at the thought of being lost in oblivion. We want our lives to mean something, and because this world is the only place we look to for meaning and reality, we ground ourselves so firmly in this temporary life that we try to find ways to stick around even after we die.
Miranda, on the other hand, wants us to remember that, while it is important to seize opportunities, we shouldn’t waste our time trying to build a legacy for ourselves. No matter how many opportunities we are given, we will not be able to control everything. Hamilton spends his whole life working so that he will be remembered. “Don’t be shocked when your history books mention me,” he says, but this is foolish of him. We can’t control what people in the present think of us, much less people in the future.
Yet Hamilton refuses to stop. He keeps working not just to make the most of each moment, but to go down in history.
And that’s where he messes up.
Hamilton bids us to seize every opportunity and to take a stand on the things we believe and hold dear. To what end? For what purpose? To extend his life. To leave a legacy. That is certainly Hamilton’s motivation. He wants to do these things for himself. He wants to climb to the top, to be on the front of a $10 bill, to be remembered.
As Christians we know that our motivation should be to bring glory to God. Trying to gain worldly glory for ourselves is futile. It amounts to nothing. George Washington reminds Hamilton multiple times, “Let me tell you what I wish I’d known when I was young and dreamed of glory: You have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story.”
We don’t have control, but Hamilton slaves away his whole life to be remembered, and there is still uncertainty. “When my time is up, have I done enough? Will they tell our story?”
Why would we waste our time in a vain attempt to bring ourselves glory when we could secure eternal glory for God?
We should work our hardest, not passing up any opportunities that come our way. We should tell that friend about Jesus, show kindness to that snobby classmate, and check in on that struggling relative. We should be proud and sure in our identity as sons and daughters of the King. We need to stand up for our beliefs.
But in all of that, we cannot lose sight of the end goal. The end goal is “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Do all that you can, but leave the rest to Him. You cannot save yourself from being forgotten. You cannot beat death through legacy.
“To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.”
-Thomas Campbell, Hallowed Ground
While this quote by the poet Campbell sounds nice and sentimental, it isn’t true. No matter how many “hearts you leave behind,” you’ll still die in the end.
However, if we focus on bringing the glory to Him, we will not care about being remembered in order to prolong our own life. Having a legacy here on earth is nothing compared to spending eternity with the all-powerful, all-loving God of heaven.