Retirement is one of the milestones of every working life. For some, it’s a reward to be encouraged to look forward to decades before it comes.
But what are the messages we believe about retirement, and how might they compare to the wisdom of God?
Mike Raiter from the Centre for Biblical Preaching is 65, the so-called legal eligible age for retirement for many, who said he’s been exercising his mind about retirement for around ten to fifteen years.
It’s in terms of what our society says it means and in terms of what God is telling us about retirement.
Mike has observed many people wealthy enough often retire too early.
“People in well-paying positions who find themselves independent financially and perhaps free of commitment to children will consider retiring at 50 or 55 and even earlier at 45.”
“But I think people think about it even earlier,” Mike repeated.
One response Mike shared was from a man working in IT who said he was just biding his time.
“I’m just going through the motions until I retire he told me, so I asked what his retirement plans were and he said he didn’t have any at all.”
The man was in an unfulfilling job hanging out for retirement, a retirement that appeared to offer nothing but emptiness.
“People think about retirement and look forward to it but don’t plan for it and when it comes they’re unprepared for it.”
The trouble appears to emerge with the world’s retirement perspective – that you’ve earned the right, come 65 or 67, to stop working and really indulge yourself.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being a grey nomad, the endless grey nomad to spend your days just doing things you enjoy. The rights you’ve earned. But the Bible doesn’t talk in those terms,” Mike reported.
Bible retirement – work!
“When the Bible speaks of retirement the word is rest. But the rest is our heavenly rest and the picture in the Bible until then is to work!”
Mike Raiter used the illustration of the parable of the talents, or the minas.
And the king said to his servants, engage in business, keep on working until I come.
“This either means the second coming or when He calls us to Himself.”
Mike explained it further by saying that as long as the Lord gives you rest and strength then He’s calling on you to work for the Kingdom and to be productive for the Kingdom.”
“It’s about using those years where you’re free of the responsibilities of paid work, and to then invest the time productively for God’s Kingdom,” Mike said.
“Our retirement funds and pensions frees us then to do Kingdom work.’
Mike referred to a time when he was in Afghanistan some years ago where he met a retired London policeman.
“He was in his early fifties and with his wife in Afghanistan to serve the Lord and was having a terrific time. That was smart thinking.”
“If you’ve the financial wherewithal, the world is full of needs, and if you’re still young and healthy.”
The difference this time around when serving the Kingdom was that before, it was in your spare time outside of work. Now you can serve the Kingdom in a much more fulltime sense.
Worldly retirement and leisure
Different story though for retirees who seek after permanent holiday style adventures. Living the ultimate life of leisure.
Off they go exploring other lands, going on tours, or eating through the excess of their overflowing retirement funds on endless pleasure cruises.
Not that there’s anything wrong with these activities as Mike says.
It’s the world’s view and the Kingdom’s view that are vastly different.
“You’ve earned the right to indulge yourself, that’s the world’s view. The Kingdom’s view is you’re now given the opportunity and I think the responsibility, to give your time and your energy to God, His Kingdom and other people,” Mike outlined.
“The focus of the world is on yourself whereas the focus of the Kingdom is on others and their needs.”
Privilege and responsibility were two more words Mike linked to Christian retirement.
“We all answer to God in the end, and if He’s given us ten, fifteen, twenty years of good health and financial resources.”
It’s not for us to indulge ourselves but to serve the Kingdom.
Then there are the many mission organisation who have the never-ending task of raising funds in order to go about their work.
Mike said the big question is how to go about raising money to support missionaries coming up against vast numbers of people who have the financial resources.
“They don’t need the financial support, they’re healthy and are able to serve.”
Grey hair credibility
But Mike had another headline advantage he wanted to toss into the ring.
“The colour of your hair, if it’s grey, is actually an advantage!” Mike exclaimed. “Not so much in the west but in the east in Africa, older age is respected as a sign of experience and wisdom.”
Mike’s speaking from experience having been a missionary when in his forties. At the time his hair colour was still dark.
Now with grey hair it just gives you more credibility.
But Mike’s takeaway with retirement is the resource of older believers that lies dormant and remains largely untapped for now.
“They’re healthy, they’re financially independent, and with the wisdom and experience to make a significant contribution worldwide.”
Articles on Mike’s ministry on this topic include ‘Do Worship Leaders Know What They’re Doing?’and ‘The End Time: The Slow Death of Congregational Singing‘
For more on Mike Raiter and his ministry;
Michael Raiter – Director of the Centre for Biblical Preaching in Melbourne. (trains and mentors preachers)