Joshua 14:10 - 12
ESV - 10 And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. 11 I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming.
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I would first say that, in my view, the principle of retirement is, in fact, found in the Bible. Numbers 8:24-26 indicates that members of the priestly tribe of Levi were to retire from active participation in leading worship at age fifty, although they could continue to assist those who were still active. However, with respect to modern retirement, I would say that (apart from any involuntary downsizings that may occur in given professions over which the individual has no control), as long as a Christian wishes to continue working; is not prevented from doing so by legal or physical constraints; and can still perform assigned duties to the satisfaction of superiors, there should be no reason why they could or should not continue working, especially if they find their work to be personally satisfying and fulfilling. Also, as pointed out by Paul (1 Timothy 5:6), it would be preferable to continue working if the alternative were to be pure self-indulgence, which Paul compared to being dead even while still alive. And even if Christians retire from their vocations, they should never retire from serving God, although the way in which they serve Him may change, such as through prayer, teaching, and setting an example for younger Christians, as indicated (for example) by the account of Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:25-38), and by Paul's advice to Titus (Titus 2:2-5).
The retirement issue, especially among Christians, has been a rather bizarre controversy. Some have argued that lifespan since Bible times has dramatically increased, and because there are no specific Bible instructions, the retirement should be delayed indefinitely. If just a few decades ago, 65 was the uncontested and legitimate retirement age, most recently the number has been quietly moved up to 67, while many well indented financial advisors aggressively are promoting 70 as the ideal retirement age. First, the lifespan hasn’t increased that dramatically - if we remove from calculation the infant mortality rate, the number remained constant for the last 3000 years. In David’s days, the life expectancy was 70 to 80 years old (Ps 90:10) – today the life expectancy in developing countries is around 60, while in US is 78. What has changed in the last 100 years is the rapid decline in infant/child mortality rate. Second, large parts of the world today enjoy a much more prosperous society. Centuries ago, unless you were born into a family of nobility, you would have work as long as physically possible or to death in order to provide food and shelter for yourself and your family. Majority of people did not have investments, dividends or 401k to live off. Today that is not the case – most people with a little planning and careful spending can assure a very decent lifestyle in retirement age. Third, many do not have the luxury to decide when to retire - unless you are self-employed or poses some rare skills that are in high demand, your employment future at the discretion of the HR department who might decide that your best days are behind you. I work for a Fortune-500 company that every year sends an email blast with extremely attractive retirement incentives targeting employees as early as 59 in order to create more advancement opportunities for younger employees. Finally, no one should be shamed into thinking that retirement is some kind of lazy way of enjoying the last years of life. Anyone who spent 35, 40 or 45 years being a productive member of society deserves the free time with family and friends and pursue whatever interests might have - that can take the form of more involvement with his/hers Church family or volunteering for some worthy cause.
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