Retiring in the Lord

“Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” (Titus 2:2-5)

My father, like most men, lived his life planning for retirement. When he reached that age he was satisfied that he had laid up enough that my mother would be cared for after he had gone home. My father spent forty years in the ministry as a Pastor of various Churches and retired in 1975. He then went on to preach as an interim Pastor for another eight years. Then for four years he counseled Pastors and went home in February of 1988. The thirteen years after his retirement my father continued to serve his Lord.

In America we are able to retire at the age of sixty-five and many of us plan for that as much as we do for our twenty-first birthday. Some view it as a freedom from the labors of life, a time to sit back and enjoy the golden years in leisure. It is a worldly thing and viewed by many as a right. I see no problem with that, as I have enjoyed my retirement very much. But in America this was not always the way it was for the early Americans.

Retirement is grounded in response to social change in our society. America was primarily an agricultural community at its founding. Of course there has always been some form of manufacturing in society but most of us back then were farmers and ranchers. Employment in early American was plentiful as there were plenty jobs and opportunities for the ones that wanted to better themselves. For the farmers and ranchers they grew larger families and as mom and pop grew older the kids would take over and the elders would care to the mentoring and management of business.

Then in the mid 1800’s a man by the name of Samuel Slater who was an industrialist became known as the “Father of the Industrial Revolution” and inspired the American factory system. (Wikipedia) This had an adverse effect of the Agricultural life of the folks in the rural areas as the sons moved to the cities where the factories were. The elder ages belonged to the more menial labors which did not pay as well as the factory work. This began to put a strain on the labor market and unemployment started to raise its head.

Then in 1913 a man by the name of Henry Ford created the moving assembly line and the productivity of the factories exploded and American became an industrial giant. With the assembly line a Model T could be assembled faster than the paint could dry on their bodies. (Wikipedia) This caused a problem for the older workers and management came to view them as liabilities. The older workers made more mistakes and couldn’t keep pace and slowed down the production lines and companies forced them out for the younger and adept.

When the Great Depression came this made the employment even more difficult not only for the elders but for the young as well. As a result Franklin D. Roosevelt developed social security; workers could pay into a retirement fund from which they could draw a living at age 60, leaving gainful employment to the next generation. (Wikipedia) Over time the result became that a sixty something person was expected to leave the work force and live a life of leisure. To this day that is the plan that we all work towards.

As Christians we should be very curious to know what God’s Word tells us of His perspective on retirement. There are many who say that man is to retire from his labors at the age of fifty and they get that from Numbers 8:24-26. This is not a proper reading of God’s Word. First it was addressed to the Levites. The Levites were responsible for the care of God’s Tabernacle, later His Temple, which now is His Church. “This is what applies to the Levites. But at the age of fifty years they shall retire from service in the work and not work anymore.” (Numbers 8:25) In the day of Moses taking down, moving, and resetting up the Tabernacle was hard work. Keeping the Temple of God prepared for worship was a tedious task according to Old Testament law. Maintaining the Church today is not an easy task either. God commanded them who had reached the age of fifty to be set aside and the younger men to care for His house of worship. But God did not tell them to retire. “They may, however, assist their brothers in the tent of meeting, to keep an obligation, but they themselves shall do no work.” (Numbers 8:26)  The older Levites were to be mentors for the young. They had many years of experience and they were to use that experience to teach and train. They were full of wisdom and understanding and they were to teach the young that they would not stumble in their duties to God.

Moses was a Levite. He spent forty years in Egypt being trained as a king in the Pharaoh’s house. Moses killed an Egyptian and fled and spent forty years in the desert with his father in law Jethro and was called by God to return and led His people out of Egyptian bondage. Moses led the Israelite nation through the wilderness for forty years till they reached the plains of Moab. There at the age of 120 years Moses spoke to the people all that God had commanded of them. “In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the children of Israel, according to all that the LORD had commanded him to give to them. (Deuteronomy 1:3) When Moses had completed all that the Lord had given him to do Moses died in the plains of Moab as he a great man of faith completed the work that had been given him by the Lord to do. Moses died the day that he had completed all that God had given him, it was there on the Palins of Moab that Moses retired in the Lord.

The expectation of the world that we live in is that we are to retire and live the remainder of our lives seeking pleasure. That we have completed our course at the perceived time as stated in response to social change in our society. It is now that we are free to do as we please and that we are capable of. Paul says this is a fatal error on the part of worldly thinking. “But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives.” (1 Timothy 5:6) I do not see anywhere in God’s Word that the Christian is to retire from serving the Lord with all our might. When the world says we are to retire, and we do, this become the greatest opportunity in our life to commit to serving the Lord. I do not believe the Christian ever retires, as we are faced with an eternity of serving our Lord and Savior and God the Father almighty.

The Apostle Paul tells us that as parents we are to save of for the welfare of our children. “Here for this third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.” (2 Corinthians 12:14) Many think of that as financial welfare and save to leave them a secure wellbeing in this world. Is that really a proper care for their wellbeing? Could it be that we are to save up our wisdom and understanding of God and His ways for their spiritual welfare? When my grandma Welsh went home to the Lord I looked back over her life and saw a life well lived in the grace of the Lord. When I look forward to those in the family that have followed I still see my grandma in their lives. It is an amazing thing to see that a righteous lady who died in 1973 is teaching the children who are born in this millennium. “And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come.” (Psalm 71:18)

I remember the old Sister Sledge song “We Are All Family.” We are the family of man, we are the family of our father, and to us we are the family of God. We are siblings, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, and grandfathers and grandmothers. We have an obligation to each in our family to love them as God loves them. “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8) We are responsible for them and we are to nurture them in God’s truth. We are to reprove, rebuke, edify, and love them. As Paul writes, “Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.” (1 Timothy 5:1-2)

If we are incapable to work the fields of the harvest there is always reserved for us the most powerful gift of all that we can give and that is the power of prayer. We read of Anna a widow at the age of 84 who prayed night and day for the souls of others and the Church. “And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.” (Luke 2:36-37)

In the eyes of God we are ageless and never too old to fulfill the work that He has given us to do. We are never too young and we are never too old because we are a part of the ‘I Am.” Let us never yield to the temptation of the adversary to retire or give up the privilege of serving our God both now and forever more. “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, September 8, 2016

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