So I’ve been mulling over some thoughts for a few weeks now.
I had the privilege to meet a Pastor’s Wife who had been in the ministry for many, many years. And while my heart broke a bit that she looked so tired. Some words she spoke have burned into the back of my mind. She spoke of the importance of securing for yourself a retirement outside of the ministry – be it through personal savings or, in her opinion, the addition of a secular job while serving in ministry. While this can sound like good financial wisdom, I began to ponder it’s Biblical principles.
A blogger friend said it well in defining the difference between living frugally and living in good stewardship. And I certainly agree that we Christians should live within our means that we would be able to be free of financial burden dictating the use of our funds, but instead free it up to the Lord to utilize how He sees fit.
I believe God takes care of His children, but that is not a freedom to, therefore, live a life of ease and irresponsibility. It’s the picture of still laboring, saving and giving away your funds with constant prayer and Kindgom work in mind.
So then where does retirement come in?
Well, the average age of death in the Bible settled into 70-80 years old when all the effects of the flood had settled into what we regularly experience today. And with the advancement of medication and technology it has raised the age to nearly 100 years old. That’s an additional 20-30 years beyond the average worker. We do not see retirement laid out for us as a model in Scripture. Some of that may be that the idea of living so long was not fathomable and therefore was not planned for. But we have to evaluate our idea of retirement. There’s a difference in responsibility for the required funding it will take to live and making the presumption that we deserve to retire.
Here’s the dilemma: so often I hear retirement in the context of entitlement. We deserve to be done with the workload. We deserve to live in a Florida home and just spend the rest of our days playing Bingo or even volunteering. So we should work very hard for that goal now. It should be our strategic plan. It should be our strategic goal now. It should be our focus.
But then what happens to the Lottie Moons? Or the George Muellers? Or the countless missionaries oversees giving literally the shirt off their backs? They’re not on vacation. Have they lost the vision of investing in their retirement?
Dare we live responsibly with good stewardship and trust that if we are pursuing Christ and doing His Kingdom work He will not forsake us of our needs? Dare we let Him define our needs, separating them from our wants?
We are asked to be good Stewards, not to be the provider. That is God’s job. And God’s promise.
But maybe it’s time, American Christians, to look outside of the blessing and realize how materialism has crept into what we feel we deserve… and how we even define needs.
Deuteronomy 6:5-12 says it like this:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Then it shall come about when the Lord your God brings you into the lands which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
This passage is spoken directly to the Israelites through the medium of Moses and while it’s easy to write it off as “spoken to someone else in a particular situation”, the truth still remains. Why did the Israelites need such constant reminders to keep the Lord first in their lives? What was God asking them to remember? What were they to write on the doorposts? Was it the goal of self-sufficiency or the reminders of relying on God?Why do you think God stressed that so diligently, painting out a literal picture of constantly being surrounded by those reminders, from teaching them to your children to literally adorning your house in them? What would be vying for our thoughts? What would be a distraction to the Israelites that would draw their attention away from God, the Provider?
We did not get to decide who bore us. We did not get to decide what country we would be born in or the opportunities we would have before us. Certainly God has graced us with some control over what opportunity our future actions may grant us, but that still lies within the constraints of access to opportunity. But we could have just as easily been born into a poor third world country. And here we are living in a life we have been given. A luxury (shelter, food, clothing, water access, job opportunities, family, etc) we were given. And we have slowly begun to get used to it and even find security in it. And we have forgotten the God who gave it all to us. The real Provider of our Portion and our Sustaining. We have slowly moved Him out, replacing Him with our self-sufficiency and fooling ourselves to believe we somehow created all this for ourselves. Much like the Israelites, we have gotten distracted by the blessing.
How do we view retirement?
Are we really entitled to it?