After 21 years, I have left the employment of Prudential Financial. As a result, many people have congratulated me on my “retirement.” In fact, there was big party, people said lots of nice things about me, and I even received a brand new Calloway Rogue One driver for my golf bag. Everyone wanted to hear how I was going to take it easy and relax now that I wasn’t going into the office everyday and supervising my department anymore. It is kind of the expected retirement story. Only problem is I just don’t see it in the Bible.
The only place I find retirement is for the Levites who served in the tabernacle. In Numbers 8:24-25, we read “from 25 year old and upward they shall enter to perform service in the work of the tent of meeting. But at the age of 50 years they shall retire from service in the work….” We have no idea why God gave this direction, but I don’t find anything else in Scripture that suggests you should retire UNLESS you are a Levite working in the tabernacle.
Can anyone point me to a good retirement story in the Bible? Not Moses (who gave the instructions to the Levites). In fact, at 80 years of age, he changed careers and worked right up to the point when God took him home. Paul is another who had a dramatic career change after many years of pursuing his chosen calling and died, as is said, “in his traces.” According to church historians, John was writing and teaching into his 90’s.
Actually this idea of retirement is a relatively recent development. I don’t think my own great-grandparents had any notion of retirement. In their generation, you worked as long as you were able and, for most of them, that looked a lot like the Apostle Paul and Moses. But with the Great Depression and the Social Security Act of 1935, retirement at age 65 began to be seen more and more as a regular goal of Americans, if not an individual right.
What really gives me pause is Christ’s parable in Luke 12:16-21. Remember the rich man who tore down his barns to build larger ones to store his grain and his goods? What was it he said to himself? “I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample good laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'” Sounds like a lot of retirement conversations I’ve had in the past months. But God said to him “You fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”
No, ours is not a calling to vacation or retirement. Our faith requires continued service. We never reach a point on this side of glory where we cease our service. Paul tells the Ephesian elders that he desires simply to “finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). And his faithfulness is reflected in his words to Timothy shortly before his anticipated death, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:7).
Oh, that we might all be faithful as our brother Paul and continue in our mission of making disciples through all the world, irrespective of what our gainful employment might be or might have been.
Lee Augsburger is NOT retiring! In fact, he started working on his Master’s of Divinity at Westminster Theological Seminary this month, together with Sharon, who began her work on a Master’s Degree in Counseling.