What does the Bible say about retirement?
I am curious to know if there are biblical guidelines relating to the optimal retirement age and how Christians are supposed to live during our retirement years. Basically, what does a Godly retirement look like?
Based on my research and consultations with pastors, I found that the Bible has no direct reference to retirement or retirement planning, except for one passage in Numbers 8:23–26:
The LORD said to Moses, “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.”
In this passage, the Lord instructs Moses to call upon all the Levite men between the ages of 25 and 49 to perform work on the tabernacle. Men over the age of 50 must not work like they used to. It is acceptable for these older men to provide assistance to the younger ones so that they can carry out their work duties at the tent. However, the older men must not perform the actual work.
Since this Bible passage is an account of what took place during Moses’ leadership, what could be extracted here is a reference to that period of history rather than a universal rule. There is an age limit to work at the tent of meeting. This historical account is insufficient for anyone to derive a biblical principle around the concept of retirement.
On the other hand, we can see from the Bible that God called His servants to work laboriously into their old age. Moses started his ministry as the leader of Israel when he was 80 years old; he spent forty years leading the Israelites in the wilderness. Moses’ career as a leader was at its height when God handed him the 10 Commandments at Mount Sinai when he was 80. His role continued until he passed away at the age of 120.
The Bible has numerous examples of people working continually through their lives, carrying out specific roles. The concept of retirement is non-existent. Also, contrary to the idea of retirement, the Bible encourages us to proclaim God’s wonderful deeds and power to the future generation, even during our golden years. The words of the psalmist echo this theme so eloquently:
“As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.” ~Psalm 71:14, 17, 18
In Isaiah 46:3–4, God affirms His love and care for His people from cradle to grave:
“Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob, all the remnant of the people of Israel, you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
May these passages encourage us to share God’s supremacy and His wonderful deeds with our sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, Sunday school children, and our next-door neighbors!
Imagine you are eighty-five years old, finishing your race on earth. You are knocking at the doors of the pearly gates. St. Peter kindly opens the door for you. With reverence and awe, you are greeting the King of kings with these words, “Dear Lord, mission accomplished! May I join you in eternal glory and worship?” The Master replies, “Well-done, good and faithful servant. Welcome to the Father’s world.”
While standing there, amazed, you overhear a conversation from another who is newly dead, “I know you are a fair and righteous Master, and I was afraid. Therefore, I hid my talents and gifts in a safe and secret place. Now, here they are. I’m returning them back to you in their original packaging.” The Master’s response reminds you of the parable from Matthew 25:14-30.
Each one of us is unique. God gives us talents and gifts according to His purpose. He keeps us around because He is still giving us opportunities to complete our mission on earth.
So, what does Godly retirement mean to you?