When it comes to the “retirement dream,” we must ask, “Whose dream is it?” It may be the American dream—but is it God’s? For some people, retirement has replaced the return of Christ as the “blessed hope,” the major future event that we anticipate. (Try doing a Bible study on the subject of retirement—I guarantee you, it won’t take long!)
When a man retires at sixty-five, studies show his chances of having a fatal heart attack immediately double. Our minds and bodies weren’t made for an arbitrary day of shutdown. Nowhere in Scripture do we see God calling healthy people to stop working. Of course, it’s perfectly legitimate to work without pay. It’s your option to give labor to ministry and volunteer work rather than to your present job. But as long as God has us in this world, He has work for us to do. The hours may be shorter, the work different, the pay lower or nonexistent. But He doesn’t want us to take still productive minds and bodies and permanently lay them on a beach, lose them on a golf course, or lock them in a dark living room watching game shows.
If you’ve saved for retirement and no longer need to work for pay, then donate your time working for the church, the poor or underprivileged children. And don’t forget the great opportunity you have to become a self-supported missionary for two or five or ten or twenty years. If you’re still here, God isn’t done with you. In fact, your most fruitful years of ministry may be ahead. That’s true whether you’re in a retirement home or anywhere else. God has a unique ministry for you here and now. Don’t kill time, any more than you would burn money. Instead, invest it in eternity.
John Piper has done much to address this topic. In this excellent video, he reads his poem “Pilgrim’s Conflict with Sloth,” and candidly and honestly struggles with his transition into what is commonly called retirement:
Below are excerpts from John’s book Rethinking Retirement, which you can read online for free:
There are different ways of dying. And there are different ways of living just before we die. But for the Christian, all of them—the final living and the dying—are supposed to make God look glorious. All of them are supposed to show that Christ—not this world—is our supreme Treasure.
So finishing life to the glory of Christ means using whatever strength and eyesight and hearing and mobility and resources we have left to treasure Christ and in that joy to serve people—that is, to seek to bring them with us into the everlasting enjoyment of Christ. Serving people, and not ourselves, as the overflow of treasuring Christ makes Christ look great.
…Finishing life to the glory of Christ means resolutely resisting the typical American dream of retirement. It means being so satisfied with all that God promises to be for us in Christ that we are set free from the cravings that create so much emptiness and uselessness in retirement.
…If we are going to make Christ look glorious in the last years of our lives, we must be satisfied in him. He must be our Treasure. And the life that we live must flow from this all-satisfying Christ. And the life that flows from the soul that lives on Jesus is a life of love and service. This is what will make Christ look great. When our hearts find their rest in Christ, we stop using other people to meet our needs, and instead we make ourselves servants to meet their needs. This is so contrary to the unregenerate human heart that it stands out as something beautiful to be followed or something convicting to be crucified.