A familiar subject came up in conversation the other day when some people were lamenting the number of days until their retirement. We seem to have become obsessed in this country with retiring. Many people work hard all their lives just so they can spend their “golden years” sitting around doing “nothing,” spending their days in leisure. There is nothing wrong with the idea of slowing down a little as we get older, but check the Bible: We are not created to do nothing and to spend our lives in total leisure.
The word retirement is defined in the online dictionary as: “the action or fact of leaving one's job and ceasing to work.” After so many years working at one type of job, it might be a fun to change direction and do something different but ceasing to work is not what God had in mind when He created you. We are all gifted in many ways and it’s from our experiences in life that we are molded for the next step of our journey. However—and this is an essential point—this journey is supposed to be for a lifetime, not simply a work life as defined by the federal government.
The key is that we are not to just one day decide to quit adding value to the world. Nowhere in scripture do we read of God saying we should work X number of years and then sit back and take it easy. The old Bible heroes had long lives. Moses, Abraham, and Job are all examples of men who found their worth up until the day God called them home. What we learn in one job can be used to help us in something else, whether it be “formal” employment or not.
We need to be open to God for Him to use us in some way until the day He calls us home. In his book All the Places to Go, How Will You Know? John Ortberg shares an old rabbinic poem describing the value of our usefulness:
From the mint two bright pennies came,
The value and beauty of both the same;
One slipped from the hand and fell to the ground,
Then rolled out of sight and could not be found.
The other passed by many a hand,
Through many a change in many a land;
For temple dues paid, now used in the mart,
Now bestowed on the poor by a pitying heart.
At length it so happened, as years went around,
That the long lost, unused coin was found.
Filthy and black, its inscription destroyed,
Through rusting peacefully unemployed.
Whilst the well-worked coin was bright and clear
Through active service year after year;
For the brightest are those who live for duty—
Rust, more than rubbing, will tarnish beauty.
What kind of penny will you be? God did not create you to sit around and rust out your later days. The only time we see Jesus talking about anything like retirement, it is in a negative note. In Luke, Jesus tells this parable:
Then he told them a parable: “A certain rich man’s land produced a bountiful crop. He said to himself, What will I do? I have no place to store my harvest! Then he thought, Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. That’s where I’ll store all my grain and goods. I’ll say to myself, You have stored up plenty of goods, enough for several years. Take it easy! Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself. But God said to him, ‘Fool, tonight you will die. Now who will get the things you have prepared for yourself?’ This is the way it will be for those who hoard things for themselves and aren’t rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21, CEB)
God has gifted you with what He needs to carry out His mission until the day you go home to be with Him forever. As noted in this parable, the man was concerned with accumulating his wealth only for his needs and not the needs of the people around him. Yes, it’s wise to plan for retirement but failing to plan for your eternal life is disastrous. The difference between rusting out and retaining beauty comes from how we allow God to use us no matter our stage of life. Our lives are to be lived for God; giving up an active life just because we think we have done enough is not in His plan.
Wherever you are today in your life, I pray you will find some way to serve the Lord not just today but for the rest of your time here on earth: “For the brightest are those who live for duty.”
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