After yesterday’s sermon on the sacred quality of work, I received several questions about retirement. If we are designed for work and we will have work to do in heaven, how is a Christian to view retirement? Am I saying that we should never retire from our job and we should work till we die? Here are my thoughts.
The Christian views retirement as a shift in vocation rather than a retirement from meaningful work. Retirement may indeed provide more time for some of the things we enjoy (I hope to get to fish a little more often and do some more travelling), but it does not represent an exclusive focus on our own pleasure. 1 Timothy 5:6 says, “But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.”
We do not retire from Christian service or from using our gifts, skills, and talents for the Kingdom of God. In fact, in retirement we may have more time to invest in the lives of our grandchildren, care for loved ones, volunteer, mentor, advocate, educate, or simply to pray. The example of Simeon and Anna, two older adults who devoted their lives to prayer, gives us a beautiful picture of retirement well spent.
To buy into retirement as a disengagement from service to others is to buy into our culture’s lie that the good life is found when we focus solely on our own pleasure rather than on serving the King. That is the very definition of hedonism. (Hedonism: the ethical theory that pleasure is the highest good and proper aim of human life.) Followers of Christ should have no fear or hesitancy toward retirement, but it should be a retirement defined differently than how our culture defines it. Free from the concerns of having to “make a living” we are more free to serve, to love, to give, to pray, to grow, to study, and to share our lives with others.
So am I saying that you should never retire? No. I look forward to retirement myself some day.
Am I saying that you should work till you die? Yes, in the service of the King with a continual eye to how I can use my gifts, skills, talents, and knowledge to serve the Lord until I take my last breath. Will the pace be different? I hope so. Will the work be any less meaningful if I work fewer hours and don’t get paid? Not at all. I know for certain that our church and our community would be greatly diminished without the service and talents of both the retired and those who don’t have full time paid “jobs” but who serve our church and community in powerful ways.
As I said, I look forward to retirement and fishing and travel. I also look forward to helping my girls with their children the way that our parents have blessed us, being the grandparent that I was blessed to have had, of teaching a class like Jimmy Carter and having hours each week to simply study my lessons without all the duties I currently carry, of mentoring some young pastors if they will listen to me, and continuing to try to share with other married couples the wisdom that God has shared with me and Susan.
The problem is not with retirment, but with our willingness to receive a godly vision for life after we have retired that is compelling, exciting, adventurous, and Christ-centered.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, so don’t hesitate to share with me. Have a blessed week.