This past week I had the opportunity to travel to the beautiful mountains of La Paz, Honduras, to share God’s Word in a little town overlooking all of La Paz and Comayagua. This church plant meets on the land of a man who has worked his whole life as a mechanic and is now working on starting a coffee farm to support himself in his retirement years. But more than anything, he is working on beginning an evangelistic outreach with his new rural neighbors.
I was very impacted by his testimony, as his perspective on retirement is very much in line with what I observe on the topic in Scripture. At his age, he recognizes that his farm might not turn a profit in his lifetime, but he is glad that in the meantime it will provide employment for his neighbors and a scenic meeting place for a newly formed body of believers.
One another occasion, we have had members of a Hispanic church in Atlanta, Georgia, come down to work with our local church here. One member of that church had recently retired from a factory job and was trying to explain the concept of retirement to my Honduran friend Luis. Luis earns his daily sustenance selling gum and candy on local buses, and if Luis fails to work for a day, he doesn’t eat that day. The idea of quitting work to golf, travel, and relax seems absurd to the working poor in countries like Honduras.
But what is our concept of retirement? Do we save money and make plans for the elusive day that we can stop working and selfishly have all the free time in the world to ourselves? In recent years, I have become increasingly convicted that the American concept of retirement just doesn’t line up with Scripture. Moreover, I am asking God to mold my desires for my future to His desires for my time and energy.
A few observations on the concept of retirement:
In the first place, the erroneous assumption is that we will arrive at our golden years. In the words of the epic 70’s classic rock bank Credence Clearwater Revival, “Someday never comes.” My mom recently died at the young age of 59, just years before she and my dad had made plans to travel the world and enjoy one another’s companionship. King Solomon with his massive retirement nest egg of treasures surely had his own ideas for what literally would have been his “golden years”. He rightly observed that life is short and it is man’s privilege to work for a season.
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
My second observation is that our efforts of saving money and planning for retirement can become an idol. We tend to check our 401k, using retirement calculators and then either stress or celebrate what we think we’ll have to enjoy in X number of years when we can finally quit work. Many times, retirement becomes an idol in which one can self-congratulate for having put away funds to sufficiently enjoy this new season of life.
Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
My third observation is that our plans for retirement expose our true selfishness. Do we want to spend money on selfish indulgences, trips, and experiences that we have ‘earned’? The sense of entitlement underscores our lack of understanding of God’s grace. After all, God, if He wills it, will have provided us with years of working, and the capacity perhaps to set aside some funds. But all this is from His hand, and not from our abilities. Finally, how we spent our hypothetical time and money will give us a strong indication of how we spend our precious minutes and precious dollars today. Do we view the free time that we will have as an opportunity to invest more in others, care more for others, tell more people about Christ?
but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
- Matthew 6:20-21…
Thank You and God Bless
Photo and caption: My friend Sergio showing me around his plot of land where he is planting coffee and planting a church.