“… He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6
It might come as a surprise to some that the word “retirement” is not in the bible. Nope, not in there – you can search for it yourself. The concept of retirement is really a fairly recent concept in terms of our culture. It came about in the late 1880’s when the German government developed a retirement system to help “those disabled from working by age and invalidity and have a well grounded claim to [receive] care from the state.” The idea was radical at the time and it actually took 8 years for its proponent, Otto von Bismarck, to get the government to act. The initial age set for aid was for those over 70 which, at the time, was about the average life expectancy. The implication, of course, is that retirement coincided with life expectancy, so the idea was that there really was no retirement for most who didn’t live that long – you were expected to work until you died. That was the expectation. If you were alive, you worked – probably on a farm.
In the United States, the concept was applied to the military in the mid-1800’s – military pensions were given to soldiers, but the pensions were not sufficient to let the recipients stop working altogether. The original age for these and other municipal pensions was set at 65. Conventional wisdom (and some research) at the time indicated that a person by the age of 60 had already given the best work and he should step aside for the next generation. But by the 1960s with advances in medicine, life expectancies reached age 70, and many were living longer and had the resources (and the culture’s permission) to stop working and to embrace leisure. That quickly became the norm, and currently, there is an estimated 38 million retirees in the United States alone.
The attitude of entitlement – retirement is an “entitlement” in the sense that it is a reward for having completed a career – is now commonplace, but it has unintended consequences for the world, because the person who “retires” from life, from culture and from involvement in other’s lives is a wasted resource. Which brings me back to the idea that retirement is not biblical, and that the concept is that we should consider is to “Finish Well”.
This is a familiar theme of mine. I’ve written about it a number of times on blogs – encouraging those who are facing “retirement” to look at the options that are open to them. I retired at the age of 69, and since then, I have taken up singing on our worship team at church, distance biking, distance swimming, and writing this blog. These are all new to me in the past 2 years. I have also increased my involvement with MentorLink by participating in a couple of foreign leadership trainings in Kenya and Cameroon, and in facilitating our on-line Institute with pastors around the world via Skype. I continue to mentor younger men – something I’ve been doing for decades, and it gives me a great deal of satisfaction in watching them advance into the what God wants them to be. This is not about me – this is just an example of the possibilities that people have when they are not tied to their work anymore. It’s a chance to give back, and this is one of the most rewarding times of my life.
My challenge is that if you are in the final years of your career is to look at ways that you can impact those around you – through mentoring and other ways. Retirement in a secular sense is not the end: it is a new beginning – a time when you are unrestrained by work commitments to give back to others. I pray that you will be encouraged by this post, and may consider starting to invest in other’s lives. You will not regret it.
RESOURCES: Half Time: Moving from Success to Significance, by Bob Buford and Jim Collins (2015)