Retirement was never really an option for our earlier ancestors. They didn’t have very long lives or the economic systems we have today. Plus, the cost of caveman retirement homes were through the roof.
The Bible is also fairly silent on the idea of retirement the way we think of it today. There is one reference to the priests (Levites) retiring at age 50 from temple service, but they were to stay on to help the younger men (probably in giving advice and guidance). The only other semblance of retirement we see in the Bible is old men sitting at the city gate, a place of honor, and those who sat there offered advice and counsel to those in the city. The older people didn’t really retire but found new ways to serve their communities. Instead of working, they lived with their children and received support from them, a rarity today unless you’re Amish.
How Should Christians View Retirement Today?
In light of new family dynamics and the uncertainty of work, we do need to be saving for a time when we won’t be able to produce as much income as we could when we were younger. Children are moving farther away from their parents for jobs (or to be away from their parents) than they did in the past. Several generations of a family living in the same house just doesn’t happen anymore. Health problems and other issues when you’re older can definitely impact your ability to earn income.
However, the American view of retirement is far from God’s ideal. How does spending every day on the golf course, or scrapbooking, or traveling the world for pleasure glorify God? By spending our entire lives on a retirement where we sit around and do whatever we want misses the picture of what God could be calling us to do when we no longer have to work. A Christian retirement focused on true pleasure and serving God can allow for some leisure (just as during your working years) without neglecting the valuable work of showing the world His love:
22 Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life-whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. 23 For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. 24 Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! 25 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 26And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?
27 “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 28 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
29 “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.
Luke 12:22-31 (NLT)
We are not to seek a life that’s merely full of the pleasures of this world. God calls us to seek His kingdom first. When we put our focus on God and trust in Him, we no longer have to worry about our retirement accounts, government policies, economic disasters, or any other worries. When we have the glorious gift of Jesus Christ, we remain wealthy despite what happens to us in this life. We have riches that cannot fail, that cannot disappear, and that will never leave us—even after death.
A Christian can certainly follow God’s teaching and will if they save up for retirement and reduce or eliminate their workload. But a Christian retirement should be focused on meeting your needs (not extravagant needs, but your daily bread—just enough) and then using your abundance of time to do God’s work. Minister to the needy, volunteer more, visit the sick and those in prison, comfort those in mourning, reach out to those on the margins of society; what a satisfying way to gain more friends for yourself when you are welcomed into eternal dwellings.
Take, for example, George Muller. At the age of 70, instead of withdrawing to a country estate to live out his remaining days, he embarked on some of the greatest Evangelism crusades in recorded history, travelling 200,000 miles, speaking to over 3 million people in 40 different countries and bringing countless souls to Christ. Isn’t this more fulfilling than spending life playing bingo or spending every day on a boat?
This new view of retirement has profound implications for your life—now and when you’re older.
- You no longer need to be obsessed with saving and investing all of your money. You’re free to be promiscuously generous by following God’s teaching on giving. You won’t have to save as much, but you should still save prudently.
- You will avoid the depression that often comes at retirement. Many people realize they actually enjoyed working and feel lost after they retire – doesn’t have to be that way.
- You’re free to do work that you enjoy even though it may not pay well. You don’t have to run after the highest paying job just so you can secure the retirement you’re told to dream about.
- You don’t need to be a workaholic. You can focus on family and serving God during your working years—glorifying God much more than if you spent 80+ hours a week working. This also leaves you with more time to develop your relationship with God.
Rethink retirement, and pray for God to show you what His will is for the later years of your life. Let God transform and renew your mind—clear out the messages the World has planted and put His teaching and will in your heart. Then plan and save for a retirement that glorifies God.