I was never one who counted down the years to retirement. Until the day I left the organization I worked at for nearly 38 years I loved my job and the people I worked with. So, how should Christians think about living for God in retirement? Is it all about taking it easy, sleeping in, traveling and playing golf? Or perhaps taking a part-time job and doing some volunteer work?
John Piper has been helpful in shaping my thoughts on retirement. He writes that the Bible doesn’t explicitly talk about retirement. We don’t, for example, read about Moses or the Apostle Paul retiring at age 65. Piper writes: “Finishing life to the glory of Christ means resolutely resisting the typical American dream of retirement.” He charges us to: “Live dangerously for the one who loved you and died for you in his thirties.” I know this may be unpopular with some, and some may object to this concept, feeling that they deserve to take it easy after working in jobs for perhaps fifty years. But I believe that type of thinking may be culturally based and ultimately unbiblical.It can be a real challenge adjusting from your working career to retirement, especially if we have gotten our identity through our job. Os Guinness, in his book The Call: Finding and Fulfilling God’s Purpose For Your Life, tells us that our calling is deeper than our jobs, our career, and all of our benchmarks of success. We should not let our jobs define us and give us our identities. However, we spend so much of our waking time doing our work, this can certainly happen. Think of when you meet someone. You ask them what they “do”. We can become what we do. If that happens, you can have a real crisis when you retire. Guinness states that instead of thinking that you are what you do, calling says to do what you are.
Over the last few years of my career, I enjoyed a faith and work book club with a few friends at work. Two of those friends, who both also retired at the end of March, and I are now read and discussed the book Halftime: Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance by Bob Buford. The author tells us that “Halftime” is when we take stock of what we have accomplished thus far in our lives and look for ways to move from success to significance. It’s a chance to dig more deeply into what we believe and evaluate whether our life is heading in a direction aligned with our beliefs. The second half is the time when you can truly make a significant contribution to the world. He tells us that “Halftime” is not retirement. In fact, it’s the opposite of retirement.
The three of us are all at different stages. One friend plans to get another job soon. The other friend is substitute teaching, what he did years ago, prior to working at the Fortune 50 organization we all worked at. I have enjoyed the time since March to do more writing, have spoken at one conference and taught a five-week class at my church on integrating faith and work.
You may have recently left the workplace, either voluntarily or involuntarily. You may be retirement age, or you may be looking for a new job. Regardless of your particular situation, I would recommend that you read Halftime. I would also recommend that you read the very practical book The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do by Jeff Goins and the more challenging book The Call: Finding and Fulfilling God’s Purpose For Your Life by Os Guinness. These are all books I’ve read previously and am reading again.
My favorite verse regarding calling, vocation, work and mission is Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men”. I want to finish well, doing my work – whatever that may now be – heartily for the Lord as I hope to use my leadership experience and seminary education to serve the Lord as long as I am mentally and physically capable. Lord willing, I hope not to waste my retirement.
I also want you to finish well. After all, don’t we all want to hear our Lord tell us at the end of our race…
Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master. Matthew 25:21