This Sunday, we finish our series on work by thinking about rest. One of the ways we think about resting from work is retirement. People approach retirement in different ways. For some, it’s something we eagerly look forward to, the end of the gruelling demands of our jobs and more time for ourselves. For others, it’s a foreboding prospect, a sense of identity loss and relevance deprivation, a concern of how to fill the time.
Retirement is not a biblical concept. Retirement, as we experience it today, was largely unknown even 150 years ago. It’s the product of wealthier and modern societies. Given that many of us will (or already do) experience retirement, and that this Sunday’s sermon won’t cover it, I want to share a few thoughts on retirement.
Recently, a friend pointed me towards this prayer in the Book of Common Prayer, “And since it is of Thy mercy, O gracious Father, that another day is added to our lives; we here dedicate both our souls and our bodies to Thee and Thy service, in a sober, righteous, and godly life: in which resolution, do Thou, O merciful God, confirm and strengthen us; that, as we grow in age, we may grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Notice what it says about aging, that “as we grow in age, we may grow in grace”. Retirement, an indicator of growth in age, ought also to be a time of continued growth in grace. Christians may be free to retire from our jobs, but we never retire from growing in grace; we never retire from serving God and others. During this series on work, we have learned this principle: work is stewarding the talents and time that God has given us for the service of others, for his glory. This stewarding can continue is retirement in three ways.
First, stewardship of time. We can use our time to serve and mentor others. Sometimes the inclination in retirement is to withdraw to an ever decreasing circle of relationships, because it takes effort to form new relationships. We should be encouraged to keep family, church, and community relationships alive (Heb. 10:24-25). We can use our time to meet with others, encouraging our friends, children, and grandchildren in growth in Christ.
Second, stewardship of talents. Retirement is an opportunity for more rest and relaxation, but it’s not the time to stop using the talents that God has given you. The bible teaches the intrinsic value of work, which doesn’t just apply to paid work. We can continue to use our talents in volunteering at church, in our networks, or in the community.
Third, stewardship of testimony. Until we stand in Jesus’ presence, we are never done with growing in character. Sometimes aging brings resentment at restrictions in health, and self-absorption and bitterness as we lament missed opportunities in life. It’s a great gift to ourselves and others to age joyfully and thankfully. In doing so, we give testimony to God’s goodness to us.
There’s lots more that could be said about retiring well as Christians. I can recommend John Chapman’s “Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life”, and Simon Van Bruchem’s “Distinctively Christian Retirement”. As we age, may we all grow in grace.