Retirement is an assumed pursuit. It is understood that once people finish the ‘career’ portion of their lives they will then retire to do as little as possible. Working hard in order to retire comfortably sounds innocent enough. Looking forward to the days of not having the responsibilities of a job so that you and your spouse can play golf multiple times a week, travel the world, or simply relax and do nothing sounds like a great plan.
Retirement and the American Dream
In two words this is American retirement; and it is the goal of millions of Americans. It is the culmination of the American Dream. But is it Christian? Is it biblical? Up front we must acknowledge that retirement is not a biblical concept nor is it an ancient ideal. It seems that retirement is a more modern, western construct. It is the byproduct of living in a culture that is dominated by materialism. Unfortunately, this mindset has crept into the church and has limited the effectiveness of many Christian lives.
There is certainly nothing at all wrong with retiring from the workforce after a career in a certain industry. There is nothing wrong with having a nice retirement package that enables you to live comfortably. The real question centers on what we do after we retire.
The Bible Speaks
The Bible is clear that we are to finish strong. In 2 Timothy 4:7 Paul states that he had fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. He also instructed believers to “always be abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Multiple places in Hebrews indicate that the Christian life requires endurance (Hebrews 12:1-2, 13-14). These verses promoting endurance not only mean that we need endurance during the difficult times of life, but that we also need endurance in order to finish the Christian life strong. As Christians, we are to push hard until the end. We are to live our entire lives for Christ, not just the first 2/3 of our lives.
The Reality in Many Lives
Many people serve God, work in the church, and live their lives for God until they retire. Then they somehow think that they have no more Christian responsibilities. They act as though they deserve a break from serving in the church. In their minds, there is no longer any responsibility for them to live for eternity and point people to Christ. Those with this mindset end up doing nothing (or far too little) to further God’s Kingdom during that last 10-20 years of their lives.
They act as though God is going to be impressed with all their golf scorecards, or with the pictures from their world travels, or with, as John Piper has stated, their seashell collection. How do any of those things accomplish the Great Commission? Please understand that there is nothing wrong with playing golf, traveling the world, or collecting seashells, but these things should not be our sole focus. When they are, they become the idol that keeps us from accomplishing God’s plan for our lives.
An Opportunity Missed
The tragedy of this retirement mentality is that those with the most time, the most experience and wisdom, and many times the most resources end up taking themselves out of the game. Instead of doing more, they do less. Instead of investing more in eternity, they invest more in earthly pursuits. Instead of being more on mission for Christ, they ignore the Christian mandate to make disciples. Instead of pursuing a strong finish, they simply coast to the end.
Rather than deserving to hear “well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23), they deserve to be asked, “Why did you waste the last quarter of your life?” A great opportunity to further God’s Kingdom has been missed.
While there is nothing wrong with retiring from a career, it is definitely wrong to retire from serving God. We should never retire from being involved in our churches. We should always strive to be active for the Kingdom of God. We should strive to accomplish as much for God in the final years of our lives as possible.
View retirement as an opportunity to accomplish great things for God. Finish strong!