Moving out of full-time work is repurpose-ment, not retire-ment. It is a time to repurpose how and why we invest our time, energy, wisdom, experience, and resources. The goal should be to finish life well. Being a good steward of this phase of life will not occur unless we are prepared with a proactive, well-grounded, and thoughtful vision. Be intentional and expectant about having your life experiences and wisdom being used providentially in the lives of others.
My new Human Resources/Medicare employment identity is “Working Aged.” Ok, sure, I get it—as in elderly, feeble, decrepit, ancient, debilitated, worn out and shot. Yes, I am 64 and approaching retirement age, but what a dispiriting designation. If I continue to work beyond 65, what will they call me next, the “Working Dead?”
Is my true usefulness over? I get the message—you are old and your ability to contribute has been significantly compromised. It’s time to pack it in and go for a cup of coffee and a McMuffin in the morning with other aimless folks in the same boat and then watch TV the rest of the day. You have reaped the rewards of your hard work by being put out to the proverbial purposeless pasture. Upon retirement, my colleagues will send me off with congratulations, confirming that I have earned this final useless chapter of my life. Really?
Something does not seem right; this strikes me as a misguided and hollow outlook.
The bluntness of being called the “working aged” has prompted some healthy reflection on the concept of retirement. What is retirement, anyway?
The Book of Numbers contains the only passage in the Scriptures that specifies an age limit for work. The Levites, the priestly class in the Old Testament, were to withdraw from their formal duties at the age of 50. The Levites performed many crucial spiritual functions pointing the Israelites to God, but they also, as an example, performed construction, maintenance, lifting, and transporting duties related to the tabernacle. There is a time when an aging body is not suited for a particular work. But this transition, described in Numbers, involves “assisting their brothers” in other ways. The purpose was not to “retire” the priests, but to redirect their expected service in a more mature direction. Their Godly wisdom, discernment, and experience was intentionally and purposefully utilized. Nowhere in the Bible does it mention that we should stop working.
An American creation, the age 65 modern retirement idea of pleasure and leisure came into being in the 1950s. It says relax, rest, and put those feet up to enjoy a carefree and work-free life. This line of thinking has indoctrinated us into believing that retirement involves completely withdrawing from any notion of work in order to have no obligations, commitments, or concerns. This is not God’s intention for us. Intentional work is part of the Lord’s lifelong design for us. Our multi-faceted and continuous vocational callings have no age limitations. Christians never retire from serving God through all the seasons of life. We are to grow and invest in our gifts and talents, while simultaneously looking for opportunities to serve. Time is a gift, and we are to redeem each day by glorifying God, serving the common good, and furthering His kingdom. There is true dignity and consequence in laboring in His vineyard until He calls us home. This call to service remains the same throughout our lives and is an expression of Christ’s love to others. Retirement is not a time for self-serving idleness.
Moving out of full-time work is repurpose-ment, not retire-ment. It is a time to repurpose how and why we invest our time, energy, wisdom, experience, and resources.
The goal should be to finish life well. Being a good steward of this phase of life will not occur unless we are prepared with a proactive, well-grounded, and thoughtful vision. Be intentional and expectant about having your life experiences and wisdom being used providentially in the lives of others.
Do not let age define your life. Author Richard J. Leider states that “the trouble is, when a number—your age—becomes your identity, you’ve given away your power to choose your future.”
The Lord’s call does not fade over time but summons us to the high calling of life-long, meaningful service to Him.
Age with purpose.
Dr. Jim Thrasher is the Senior Advisor to the Vice President for Student Recruitment and the coordinator of the Institute for Faith & Freedom’s working group on calling. This article is used with permission.