During the past 70 years or so, the subject of retirement has gained ground rapidly in America due to health and economic advantages we are now afforded. People are living longer, and many are now able to retire for as many years as they have previously worked. In fact, one of the fastest growing populations segments in America are those over the age of 85.
Biblical perspective on retirement
So, what does the Bible have to say about being retired? Numbers 8:23-26 is the only Scripture I could find remotely close to the concept of retirement. But even with multiple translations, the primary message is an intent of shifting to different responsibilities rather than ceasing to work. “The Lord said to Moses, ’This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.’”
Rather, throughout the whole of Scriptures, we are given many instructions about work, ranging from not being able to eat if we don’t work (II Thess. 3:10) to working continuously as worship to God (Colossians 3:23).
What do I want to do when I grow up?
Practically speaking, what could this mean for us? We know our bodies and temperament change, and we may not be able to perform the same work in all periods in our lives. Our abilities shift, compensation will fluctuate, and our personal goals may evolve as well. Yet, for almost every person I’ve done career counseling with, no matter what the age, the question of “What do I want to do when I grow up?” is one that consistently enters the conversation.
Retire or Re-Fire
I would suggest the answer is never to retire, but simply to “Re-fire!” Ok, so that sounds great but how do you do that?
What does God say about work?
First, I’d encourage you to consider the theology of work. I barely scratched the surface of this topic so far, but a further, in-depth study I believe would allow you to conclude that God expects to lead fully productive lives and never entertain retiring. Different work, different pace, different time, different compensation (perhaps even none), but never ceasing to work.
What is your purpose?
Second, whether you can reach that conclusion or not, I’d point you to finding your purpose in life (why you’re here). There is significant literature (sacred and secular) available that substantiates fuller contentment and joy, accompanied with longer life, exists when you are living out your life’s purpose.
What is your calling in this season?
Third, different seasons of life, and the corresponding experiences you’ve gained, logically enable potentially different callings for your life (what you’re here to do). Of course, God doesn’t need logic for what He may call you to do, but examining your past experiences, strengths, gifts, passions, and values can allow you to connect the dots for hearing what His call may be for your life as you go through different life events, including getting older.
Here’s how this all looks for me right now at age 60.
- As I stated, I don’t believe I will ever stop doing some type of work. I’m simply “re-fired!”
- My life purpose statement is “to glorify Christ by helping people and organizations achieve their aspirations and His purpose.” If you take the time to unpack that statement, it’s broad enough to allow many different angles of work to be entertained.
- My calling in life currently looks like: “I am a culture ambassador of Christ Jesus, called to ignite and fuel lasting results with people through Crossroads Career and with organizations through becoming an author and advisor.”
Like all of you, I am on a journey that includes ups, downs, and all arounds! Different seasons call for different approaches, and I am confident that God’s call into my life will continue to evolve. I just want to be sure I’m fully present and listening for His call. He can do the same thing for you.
Want to know more about your calling? You can find more about this topic, no matter your age, with our new workbook entitled, “Hear God Calling You” at https://store.crossroadscareer.org/collections/products/products/hear-god-calling-workbook.
Dave Sparkman currently serves as the volunteer Crossroads Career board chair and local ministry leader. He is also the founder and managing director of Spark Your Culture, a corporate culture consulting firm. Prior to that he worked at UnitedHealth Group, a Fortune #5 public company, serving in the role of Chief Culture Officer. His unemployment experience came from the implosion of Arthur Andersen, where he served as the West Region Managing Partner, People.