What Does The Bible Say About Retirement?
We like the idea of retirement. After all those years of working hard, progressing in our careers, and making sacrifices, we feel like retirement is when we’ve finally made it. We see it as a season to enjoy all the luxuries we’ve convinced ourselves we deserve. Reaching 65 is heralded as a time when you can quit your job, kick your feet up, and let Social Security serve you for a change.
But this attitude about retirement is not biblical.
What the Bible Says
To fully understand what the Bible says about retirement, we have to go back to the beginning – when God first created man. In Genesis, God creates Adam and gives him charge to work and manage the garden. He is to have dominion over the Earth. God gave Adam a job!
Granted, Adam got to skip the interviewing process, and couldn’t exactly provide any references, but God chose him for the job and gave him a clear job description. Adam enjoyed his work and the (literal) fruit of his labor.
Then sin entered the world.
What this tells us is that work is good. It was created before the fall of man. It was integral to how God designed us, and always part of His plan for us. Research supports God’s original design – that working keeps our bodies healthy, our minds sharp, and our lifespan longer.
So we know that work is good. But does that mean retirement is bad?
The only mention of retirement found in the Bible is in Numbers 8:25. It refers to the Levites (the priestly tribe of Israel) living off the tithes and offerings of God’s people and retiring at the age of 50.
There is no other direction found in Scripture that would suggest we should retire. That doesn’t mean retirement is sinful, but it does mean it should be viewed from a different perspective.
So the problem with today’s attitude towards retirement is that it completely negates an integral aspect of God’s design – that we were created to work. It also normalizes something that was never intended to be normal – not working.
Now please hear me – I don’t think retirement is evil, wrong, or bad.
But I believe that retirement for Christians should mean freeing time to devote to serving others more fully without the necessity of getting paid for it. It is time to repurpose how and why you invest your time and resources.
I will warn you that the attitudes I want you to adopt are contrary to what our society will tell you that you deserve. But Romans tells us what we really deserve – to pay the ultimate price for our own sins. By grace, Christ paid that price for us, and we now have the opportunity to live our lives contrary to the rest of the world.
To adopt the right attitude, we first need to examine our attitude towards work.
We should see it as a blessing, a daily, outward expression of worship, and an opportunity to learn more about God’s brilliant and unique design for each of us. It’s God’s provision for you and your family (even if it’s not what you dreamed of doing).
Those that live for the weekend, and find no satisfaction in their work, are robbing themselves of a blessing. Ecclesiastes 2:24 says, “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God…” Be joyful in your work, and remember it’s the Lord you’re working for, not man (Colossians 3:23).
Next, we need to examine our attitude about retirement. Instead of quitting it all and moving to Florida when the first piece of mail from AARP arrives in your mailbox, be diligent to save and willing to serve. If we adopt this mindset and devote the last years or decades of our lives to serving others, then the Lord really will find us doing His work when He returns (Luke 18:8).
The Right Retirement – Be Diligent to Save
Now, regardless of whether or not you plan on exiting the workforce, I would encourage you to save like you’re going to.
If you are forced to quit working for health reasons, a healthy savings and investment account will allow you to support yourself without assistance from the government or your children. If you continue working, you will have a cash flow to use as a tool for the Kingdom.
The Bible is clear we are to save. It’s also clear we are not to hoard.
So, work to put together a plan to save for retirement NOW. The earlier you start, the better. But if you’re in your later years and haven’t started saving, now is the time to start. You can learn more about what kind of retirement accounts are available here.
Here are some questions to answer as you plan:
- Why should I retire?
- What will I do?
- What if my retirement plan fails?
- What if I can’t retire?
Stewards save because we trust the Lord, not because we trust money.
So when it comes to retirement, remember that you are saving to be used by God, not to spend frivolously. Remember that He is “able to make all grace abound to you so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
The Right Retirement – Be Willing to Serve
I believe it is best to try to continue to work and/or volunteer in some capacity. It’s good for your mind, your heart, and your soul.
More and more seniors are launching what’s known as “encore careers” in retirement, venturing into new fields of business with years of experience and more cash to get something off the ground. Maybe you are passionate about a project and can devote the time and energy to it in retirement. Perhaps you want to mentor younger employees in your field to help them excel in the workplace.
Ultimately, we don’t get to take anything with us when we go to Heaven. So let’s adopt our roles as stewards, and devote our lives to managing the time, money, and relationships God has blessed us with. If you want to learn more about what the Bible says about your money, and how to live as a biblical steward, enroll in Crown’s online MoneyLife Personal Finance Study. You can go through the 7 weeks individually, with your spouse, or with your group from church. The study is made up of comprehensive, interactive lessons that will help you learn timeless biblical principles and practical ways to implement them.