Retirement has taken some shots from certain sectors of evangelical Christianity over the last decade or so, and for good reason. Many retirees use it as an opportunity to no longer produce for the good of society but rather leisurely set the cruise control to “almost dead” and hope for a peaceful transition to the next life.
David Bahnsen writes in World Magazine his definition of retirement:
Retirement is “a period of financial independence where one’s financial needs are provided for, even if income is no longer being generated.”
This is good specificity, because the complaints against retirement are not against leaving a job, but rather wasting one’s financial independence. In his view (which I agree with), retirement is not the issue, but what one does with this new freedom from their job.
John Piper urges folks to not waste their retirement.
Retirees are some of the best resources that the body of Christ has, because they are free to serve the Lord without the constraints of a 40 hour work week. And I’m not suggesting they do the landscaping around the church building or search the internet for the next cute marquee slogan.
There are countless organizations, social service entities, teaching opportunities, broken homes (as in, homes literally in disrepair among the poor), Big Brother opportunities, and so on that could benefit from these most experienced and wise of God’s children.
I’m not sure is Bahnsen’s article is available on the web without a login, so I’ve quoted it in full here.
“Retirement” is a difficult term for many to grasp. The word most certainly never appears in the Bible, and yet it has become an accepted goal of mainstream thought. Post-World War II culture involved the notion of a “golden watch”: People worked until age 65 and then exited the marketplace, prepared for the years they had left financially (through savings, a company pension, and government Social Security). The modern visual we have of “retirement” is often a “do-nothing” period of various leisure activities, and hopefully occasional time with grandchildren.
I use the term “retirement” in an entirely different context, one that pertains to financial goal-setting. “Retirement” to me is “a period of financial independence where one’s financial needs are provided for, even if income is no longer being generated.” Many people can and do stay productive for decades after they achieve this milestone. Some demonstrate this productivity by staying in the same career or job they were in before they achieved this level of financial independence. Some demonstrate it by exiting the workforce, yet staying involved in consulting or volunteer work.
My point is not ever to suggest how readers set their own “retirement” goals; rather, I want simply to encourage readers to view as a noble thing preparation for a day when body and mind may not be able to generate a paycheck any longer. We do not plan to one day be idle; we plan so that our gifts and talents can be used through a variety of circumstances that life may throw at us.
Ecclesiastes 5:18 notes that it is good to find joy in work: “Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun.” Christians ought to have a different mindset than the world does about retirement. Idleness is still the devil’s tool, even at age 65.