Christians may be free to “retire” from their occupation, but as disciples of Christ we aren’t ever free to retire from serving God and others. If we’re fortunate enough to be freed from the demands of working for a living, that opens a door of opportunity to do more work for the kingdom using the wisdom, experience, talents, and resources the Holy Spirit has given us through a lifetime of discipleship.
If this sounds like “retire but don’t retire,” that sums it up well. Retire or don’t from your job or career; but if you do retire, then imagine and plan for a retirement that is different than the world envisions.
What Reimagined Retirement Looks Like
In my book Reimagine Retirement: Planning and Living for the Glory of God, I look at the biblical and historical perspective on retirement and then describe what a Christian “reimagined retirement” might look like. I describe it this way:
A reimagined retirement is one that is planned, structured, lived, and continually re-examined in light of sound biblical doctrine, principles, and practice. It is a retirement lived for the glory of God, his kingdom, and the good of his people. (44)
Retirement may mean a new season of life, but it doesn’t mean we should stop growing and investing our time, talents, and treasure in God’s kingdom-building work. All our personal and material gifts, whether we have much or little, are good gifts from God that can be used in retirement for our joy, others’ good, and God’s glory (1 Cor. 12:11; 1 Pet. 4:10–11; 1 Tim. 4:14). All of us have been given gifts in various measures from God in the form of skills, talents, resources, and abilities.
Here are four kinds of stewardship.
1. Stewardship of Time: Serving and Mentoring
One of the greatest dangers of “retirement” is withdrawal from the mainstream of life and decreased involvement with others. It’s vitally important for the Christian retiree to stay involved and to keep family, church, and community relationships alive (Heb. 10:24–25). In these contexts serving, discipling, mentoring, and personal ministry can take place.
Older Christians are called to disciple, mentor, and teach. They share biblical knowledge and godly wisdom acquired through experience, especially with those who are younger (Matt. 28:20; Phil. 3:17; Titus 2:3–4; 2 Tim. 2:2; Heb. 13:7). There’s much that older Christians can contribute by being an excellent example of godly character.
2. Stewardship of Talents: Calling and Vocation
Many imagine retirement as a time to finally do whatever they want (subject to physical and financial limitations). They envision endless hours of rest, relaxation, and recreation with few responsibilities or obligations of any kind. This is inconsistent with the Bible’s God-glorifying vision of work.
Without work that’s both fulfilling and contributes to the good of others, our lives in retirement will lack the meaning and purpose work provides.
The Bible teaches the intrinsic value and dignity of work (Gen. 1:31; John 5:17; Col. 3:23; 2 Thess. 3:12), and that doesn’t apply only to work-for-pay. We find joy and fulfillment by working in the vocations to which we’re called, and it enriches others’ lives. Without work that’s both fulfilling and contributes to others’ good, our lives in retirement will lack the meaning and purpose work provides.
3. Stewardship of Treasure: Stewardship and Generosity
We shouldn’t retire (stop working for pay) unless we can provide for our families and continue to be generous toward others (1 Tim. 5:8; 2 Cor. 8:13–14; 1 Pet. 4:10). We must be careful not to retire from a paying job too soon; we have a responsibility to our families and others to be reasonably confident we can afford to retire before we pull the trigger.
Due to increasing longevity, inflation, health-care costs, and other concerns, there are serious doubts about our ability to fund several decades in retirement, and rightly so. Many surveys and studies have reached the same conclusion: many people don’t have enough money saved to support a prolonged period of not working for income. Although Social Security and a pension may be sufficient for some, most won’t be that fortunate.
4. Stewardship of Testimony: Character and Perseverance
We may eventually retire from our job or career, but we never retire from being a disciple of Christ (Titus 2:1–2). We’re abide in him so that our lives will continue to bear fruit (John 7:37–39; 15:5–17; Ps. 92:12–14). The biblical pattern for the older Christian is to continue maturing as a faithful follower of Jesus, active church member, and good husband or wife, father or mother, grandparent or friend.
Christians may be free to ‘retire’ from their occupation, but as disciples of Christ we aren’t ever free to retire from serving God and others.
Faithfulness comes through continued exercise of the spiritual disciplines—devotions, fellowship, reading, prayer, and listening to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word and diligently applying it to our lives (Acts 2:42). It also means humbly receiving honest and loving input from those God brings into our lives.
God’s Good Gifts
Some of God’s good gifts to us are for others’ good, but he also gives them for our enjoyment (James 1:17; 1 Tim. 4:4–5). One of his greatest gifts is his creation, which we can enjoy in myriad ways. If God has given you the ability to travel, go to school, eat out, or go to a movie or a music concert once in a while, enjoy those things with a clear conscience and give him thanks. Yes, he has given us more than we need, but that’s just a reminder of the God who loves us, saved us, and who freely gives gifts according to his sovereign grace.
Yes, we’ve received many good gifts, but the greatest of all is knowing Jesus as Lord. We’ve been bought with a price—the death of God’s only Son—and because we belong to him, our chief purpose in life, and retirement, is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever (Ps. 37:4; 100:1–2; Phil. 4:4). Borrowing from John Piper’s language in Don’t Waste Your Life, “God created us to live with a single passion to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of this life. . . . The opposite of wasting your life is living life by a single God-exalting, soul-satisfying passion.”
The Bible exhorts us to pursue, enjoy, and glorify God throughout our lives—including when we’re “retired.”