Christianity and the Idea of Retirement

“Retirement at sixty-five is ridiculous. When I was sixty-five I still had pimples.”
–George Burns, American actor and comedian

People seem to look forward to retirement. The office surprise. Balloons. A goodbye cake. Maybe a plaque of appreciation. If you’re lucky, a gold watch. And of course, an unending amount of compliments until you’re ushered out the door with a roaring applause. “Good riddance,” some officemates think. Well, the day has finally arrived. It’s the day you get to leave your day job—the job you’ve either loved or hated for years—and now you really get to start living your life. You finally get to do the things that you’ve always wanted to do like…

Travel the world, one large cruise at a time.
Golf on Mondays. And Tuesdays. Heck, you might be at the green every single day.
Perhaps a little tango on the side if your knees can take it.
Morning breakfasts at the local diner.
Coffee with your buddies at the mall food court.
A little gardening here and there.
Maybe do some bird watching and/or people watching (whichever floats your boat).

This is what many people in our world seem to look forward to. They aim for retirement and the peace, comfort, and enjoyment that all their years of hard work will finally bring. They’re after the “good life.” The concept of retirement is quite simple. Work for a company or organization as long as you can. Save up a ton of money and be smart about your investments. And when the right time comes, you put your feet up and live on whatever savings you have until you kick the bucket. Most importantly, you’ll finally be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy life. How picturesque. In a very simplistic sense, this is what many people in our world strive for every single day.

But how about us, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ? What do we strive for? Is sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying life our end goal? Is the “good life” what we’re aiming for? Retirement and the peace, comfort, and enjoyment it brings is not all there is to life. In fact, Christians believe in a larger and greater purpose that goes far beyond the comforts of retirement. We’ve been called to follow Christ to the very end. We’ve been called to love God completely and to serve others sacrificially. We’ve been called to fully participate in the Great Commission—the making of disciples of all nations.

Retirement isn’t necessarily wrong and it’s surely not wrong to enjoy life. But for many people (Christians included), this is what they’re aiming for. Retirement and the “good life” become the end goal. The achievement of such becomes their purpose in life. And it’s clear in Scripture that Christians are supposed to be different from the rest of the world. We mustn’t strive for retirement (and the peace, comfort, and enjoyment it brings) at the expense of the kingdom of God. If the “good life” is what we’re aiming for, we’ve completely missed the boat on what it means to follow Jesus. Following Jesus is about having a vibrant relationship with Him—a journey of faith, a life of obedience, and a daily surrender to Christ. Following Jesus is about fully participating in the mission that He entrusted to us—the making of disciples. There’s a lot of personal denial and sacrifice involved. And it’s expected that Christ’s mission will consume us—our time, energy, and money—until the day we enter into eternity.

Here’s something to really think about: are my dreams of retirement and the “good life” actually getting in the way of accomplishing the things that ultimately matter in the kingdom of God?