It’s funny how a person’s view of what is old changes as you age, or as I prefer to say it, “grow more mature” or “grow more experienced.” When I was in my 20’s, I thought of 50 as “old.” Now that I am in my 70’s, my thought is that the 70’s aren’t really that old. There is no way I can be … old, except that some aches and pains tell me otherwise!
Similarly, my view of retirement has changed now that I am retired. When I was in my 20’s, I was imaging the lazy days of retirement, waking up late, relaxing and enjoying times of doing absolutely nothing. Now, I know that was a very unrealistic view of retirement, or at least of my retirement. To me at this life stage, that is the very definition of boring.
Part of the reason for the shift in my view is that I got saved in my late 30’s thanks to my wife’s patient but persistent desire to worship. Discovering that I had something to live for other than myself and my family changed many things for me. Mainly, my view of life changed; actually, everything about life changed.
My old concept of retirement was something I couldn’t find in the Bible, at least not in a favorable light. In fact, nothing in the Bible supported any of my old ideas of life or retirement. Instead of being about me:
I discovered that life – and everything in it – is about God.
There is a plan for my life.
These is a purpose for me being here.
My neighbors include a lot more people than I even know or will ever know.
I am supposed to care about others even before myself, even if I have no idea who they are.
What I do, including my work, has a purpose and is ordained by God.
Everything I do matters – everything!
I am in full-time ministry, 24×7.
I have a security that goes beyond this life into eternity.
And I have a peace about my future that could never have been possible before.
I also discovered that the idea of retiring into self-indulgent leisure doesn’t seem to fit the Bible. The closest story about retirement in the Bible is in Luke 12. Appropriately, it is most commonly (and appropriately) called the parable of the rich fool.
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”
15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.
17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.
19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
The short summary of this parable is Luke 12:21; nothing good lies in the future for ”whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” In other words, it is wise to factor God into your retirement plans.
How can you do that?
The following thoughts I offer seem to be the best answer because in retirement, you are retiring from paid work but you aren’t retiring from life, ministry, or service. God willing, you may just be getting started!
Your use of time before retirement
Your time is not your own. The Bible has a continuous thread of passages telling us that at any every age and point in our lives we are stewards of everything God has given us here on earth. And it is all for the purpose of allowing people to seek God. Acts 17: 24-28.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.
25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.
26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.
27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.
28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
In that light, at least some of our time should be oriented towards God’s purpose and heart, salvation for His lost children. It is necessary to work and support your family, to plan and save for the future, and to be a responsible involved member of your neighborhood and community. However, even as you do each of those, God should be in focus and He needs to be involved in your daily life.
In your work, you work for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31. See Called to Work – The Theology of Work, Part 1 and Part 2. How you raise your children and care for your spouse shows God in every word and deed. See Giving Your Child a Heart for Giving and our Resources for Parents including Teaching Money to Children and Youth, Parts 1 through 10. Your neighbors and those you meet in the community are all either persons who know Jesus or who need to know Him. How you live around them speaks volumes about the sincerity of your faith and the closeness of your walk with Jesus. Always remember that you are the salt and the light of the world. Matthew 5:13-16.
Your use of time after retirement
Here is the great part; once you stop working, you keep on doing a lot that you were already doing! I have often said that a person should not just retire from something, but into something. This is a much easier transition than shifting from all work to all play or from all work to no work. Once you stop your paid job, what changes is that you have a lot more time available to serve God.
Golf isn’t bad (mine is), but God isn’t really going to be impressed that in your retirement you got your handicap down by a couple strokes.
Travel isn’t bad either (I know). God made all of this beautiful world and I am confident He wants you to enjoy the splendor of what He made for us. But there is more to life and retirement than your travel bucket list. Some of your travel can be done in part with short-term mission trips to some very interesting places. While the accommodations are short of 5-star hotels, the benefits are – quite literally – out of this world.
Gardening and yardwork also aren’t bad. God made the grass, the plants, and the trees, but a perfectly sculpted hedge or plant isn’t going to cause the Creator of the universe to step back in awe and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:21.
We were made to help and to serve.
21 It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor,
but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Now you have the time and hopefully the energy, increase your service, learn new skills, and make new relationships. Within the church, those new relationships can be people you pray for, encourage, and with whom you have Christian fellowship. Outside the church are people with whom you can share the love and joy of Christ and perhaps invite to church.
Your use of skills, abilities and influence before retirement
God has given you particular skills and abilities and at least one spiritual gift. 1 Peter 4:10-11. That spiritual gifts, as well as other talents and skills, were not given to you for no reason; it wasn’t a random assignment without purpose. Ephesians 4:11-13.
You may feel that you have nothing to offer. The best answer I have heard to that is that “God didn’t make any junk!” God has called all people to serve and He has made them able to serve. If Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic, can serve (and she serves faithfully with great effect), then you can as well. The work of the church is meant to be done by the people of the church, not just the hired staff and pastors. Ephesians 4:11. The way I like to put it is that the work of the ministries of the church is too important to leave just to the Pastors. That is not intended as an insult to the Pastors and staff, but the truth is that most churches have an abundance of untapped skills and abilities among their laity. You can fill important gaps in services that you may not even be aware exist. Just ask God, be patient, and be prepared to serve.
Service with your skills and abilities is often easy to imagine and develop. The truth is that many people have far more influence with their friends and neighbors than they realize, and with the power of social media, people have a far greater ability than they realize to have influence with and a favorable impact upon many people.
If you thought the service you give with your skills, abilities and influence before you retire was a lot, just wait to see what God has in store for you in retirement – if you are willing and make yourself available.
Your use of skills, abilities and influence after retirement
As with your use of time after retirement, you now can use your spiritual gift(s) and your skills and talents even more because you have more available time. In my case as a practicing attorney, as I wound down into retirement, I increased my service. One way was by becoming Executive Director of The Idlewild Foundation. It wasn’t an opportunity I sought out; it was an opportunity God presented to me. The most important qualification I had is one some people lack – I was willing to increase my level of service.
Time after time I have watched people be transformed by God from believing they had little to offer to being effective small group facilitators and/or leaders. Just say “yes, I am available” and God has a spot for you.
Your finances before retirement
Before you retire, it is responsible to save and prepare for your financial future. The parable of the rich fool does not suggest that you can’t prepare for retirement or that you shouldn’t save.
Planning for the future and for your retirement is not a sin or wrong in any fashion. Jesus gave us a parable that illustrates the need for planning.
28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?
29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him,
30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’
In truth, it is wrong not to plan. We are to trust God, but we should also obey His Son and plan for your earthly future after you insure your eternal future by trusting in Jesus. Just make sure all of your plans include God.
You should save for retirement, but never should you neglect giving to God. We have what we have through the grace of God. As stewards of what God has given us, we have a responsibility to do the best we can with what we have. See the parable of the talents, Matthew 25:14-30 and Cleaning up the Business of the Church #4, Lessons learned from the Parable of the Talents.
One question almost everyone has is whether they have enough money saved and invested to last for the rest of their lives and to meet their retirement goals. That is a fair question. Yes, we are to trust God, but we have no right to presume upon God and expect Him to come through when we have made bad choices. Matthew 4:1-11.
I highly recommend that as you reach your 50’s and are seriously looking at retirement that you run a test. Figure out as closely as you can what your retirement income will be. You can check what your Social Security payments will be by running it on the Social Security website at the Social Security estimator. You have to enter personal information to identify yourself. The calculator will not work for everyone, and there is an alternative calculator at this alternate page of Social Security. Look at other sources you may have; a pension, IRAs, and other investments, and then total up your income. Now add up your anticipated expenses – don’t forget taxes and definitely don’t forget inflation. Make sure that your expenses, including giving to God, do not exceed your income. If expenses do exceed income, you need to re-think your retirement date or your level of spending. It is far better to find that out now rather than after you have left your employment.
Now comes the challenging part – live within those limits for the next three to six months or even longer. This is a test to make sure you can really do it. Certainly, some expenses will stay higher than normal because you are still driving into work (assuming you do drive in to work), you still have health insurance that isn’t free, and there are some work and business expenses that will stop when you retire, but you can make small adjustments in your test budget for that. Build into your financial plan and budget savings for desired travel and, if possible, for savings. Don’t forget to keep giving because it is God who made it possible for you to get as far as you have. Deuteronomy 8:18.
If it works – great. If you fail, then you need to re-think the process and see where the problems are. Be thankful you found out before it was too late to alter your plans and make adjustments.
Your finances after retirement
Once you retire, you can begin to fully understand the financial demands, the costs, and the benefits of retirement life. Many people wait until they are on Medicare to retire because of the high cost of private insurance coverage. Before that Medicare date (currently age 65), do your research and select an Advantage Plan or a Supplement, a Medigap policy that fits your life, health, lifestyle and needs. There is an amazingly wide variety of available plans to fit most people, with many options at no cost whatsoever. There are experts willing to assist – and that is at no cost to you. If you don’t know where to start, give us a call at The Idlewild Foundation.
Here is the key point for you to understand. You are a steward over the money God has allowed you to possess. There is no suggestion in the Bible that your role over your money as a steward ever changes at any point in your life. There is also no suggestion in the Bible that your giving stops upon retirement.
Your social activities and life before retirement
You have friends, you have family, and you are exposed to people during your daily activities. If you shop at the same stores regularly, you run into clerks and service people who you see daily, weekly or monthly. Your relationship with those people is important. I like to say that my wife has never met a store clerk or cashier she hasn’t engaged in a conversation. She is especially good about asking other people how they are and actually listening to their responses. Those relationships actually matter and provide open opportunities for invitation to church, Bible study or special events such as a church Christmas presentation or Easter service.
You are being watched by people everywhere you go. The fruit of the Spirit includes joy. Does your countenance and your life reflect that joy? That is a question to ask about your countenance at work. Doe the people at your workplace see Christ in you? Do they see you working “as working for the Lord.” Colossians 3:23.
Your social activities and life after retirement
Your Biblical calling to be salt and light in a dark world, Matthew 5:13-16. doesn’t change upon retirement. What changes will be the people who can see that light and taste the flavor of that salt.
Many of the social aspects of your life will not change. It certainly did not for me because many of the social aspects of my life are wrapped round either family or church. There are, however, some aspects of your social activities and life that likely will change. Your use of your extra time may allow you to add service outside the church to ministries such as food kitchens, women’s shelters, food banks, etc. Those expanded service opportunities are also opportunities for you to share His love and witness too.
Retirement is a blessing. Yes, there are aches, pains and problems that come with age (experience). There are a few old/new hymns for retirees:
It Is Well with My Soul, But My Knees Hurt
Nobody Knows the Trouble I Have Seeing
Just a Slower Walk with Thee
Count Your Many Birthdays, Name Them One by One
Go Tell It on the Mountain, But Speak Up
My point is not to make fun of seniors – I am one. But my point is in the word “attitude.” We all know people who do nothing but complain; those whose glass is half empty on a very good day. Instead, look forward to the best time you will ever have to be a witness for our generous and loving God. I prefer the attitude of British poet Robert Browning:
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith, ‘A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God:
See all not be afraid!’
Robert Browning, “Rabbi ben Ezra” (1864)
About the Author
John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.