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Sounds Words: Rethinking Retirement Some More

Sound WordsIn the last Sound Words column, I applied Luke 12:13–21 to the topic of retirement, urging readers not to retire from life and ministry. Devoting your final decades to golf, gardening, and grandchildren would be unwise and unscriptural. Moving to Florida may be a selfish thing that leaves a gaping hole in your local church. On the other hand, your remaining productive years could be eternally useful, whether working in your local church, helping a church plant, or going to the mission field—without having to raise support!

While wasting the freedom afforded by your “autumn years” is tragic, the pattern of neglecting eternal needs for temporary pleasures starts long before retirement parties. We must not neglect urgent ministry needs in the “spring and summer” of life in order to stockpile for the future.

In James 5:1–6, James rebukes and warns those who are wealthy. Why? The riches with which they had been blessed were being misused—or not used at all! They were saving for “the last days” (v. 3) even as those less fortunate were unable to meet life’s basic needs (v. 4). In an apparent allusion to Christ’s teaching in Matthew 6:19–20, James bemoans such short-sighted and selfish hoarding. Unused possessions were rotting in storage (v. 2a); garments which could have clothed the needy were hanging in closets, moth-eaten (v. 2b); gold and silver that might have funded gospel ministry was “corroding” (v. 3). Such abuse of God-given wealth disgusted James. He warned of coming and ironic judgment in which hoarded riches would hinder their long-term security rather than insuring it (vv. 1, 3, 4).

To be sure, much of the reason for James’ frustration is that some of the wealth had been gained dishonestly, (vv. 4, 6). Still, there is a sense in which their hoarding and luxurious living—to the neglect of urgent needs—would have been unconscionable even if the riches had been gained honestly (cf. 1 Tim 6:18–19). While investing for the future is commended in both Testaments, we must ask ourselves “how much is enough?” We must invest in such a way that current needs are not neglected.

  • Ought we to stockpile for future comfort when hard-working brothers cannot make ends meet?
  • Ought we to plan for lavish vacations when missionaries toil three or more years to raise support?
  • Ought we to invest so much of our extra income into a dicey(!) stock market when our local churches are unable to meet budget?

We need to rethink retirement—both what we intend to do with it and what we’re willing to sacrifice in order to get there.


“Sound Words” is a monthly column in the OBF Visitor, the publication of The Ohio Bible Fellowship. This article was first printed in October/November 2008. It is cross-posted from the OBF Visitor blog, where many other articles are posted and may be searched by author, category and keyword. Information on subscribing to the Visitor is available here.


5 Responses

  1. I’m totally in agreement with the spirit of your two posts, but I’d have to disagree on one of your “g” words–grandkids. A ministry to the grandkids could be a wonderful help to Mom and could reap eternal benefits to the kids. My own mother is not nearby, nor is my mother-in-law, but I admire those who have godly mothers nearby who are helping them train their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

  2. Hi, Addy.

    I certainly didn’t mean to say that grandchildren are a hobby comparable to golf and gardening. Lois, for one, would agree with you on the spiritual benefit of investing in grandchildren. My point is simply that grandchildren shouldn’t be “sovereign” in the decision of how to use retirement. Perhaps the Lord wants retirees to move nearer their grandchildren—and perhaps not. To merely assume that being near grandkids is God’s will is probably presuptuous, though.

    Hope that makes sense. Thanks for chiming in. :)

  3. Make sense! Thanks for the clarification!

  4. Bro Chris,
    I am glad you are discussing this. As my husband and I have traveled and helped in churches, and been members in churches with a largely “golden age” membership, we’ve thought what a precious resource is being lost as folks adopt the “I’ve done my time” mentality. Patrick jokes that re-tirement is being “tired all over again”–but in reality, don’t you think the weariness comes sometimes from self-indulgence and the subsequent lack of satisfaction? The church we are currently in has many precious and faithful older ladies who have been abundantly generous with their time and resources. Beautiful.

  5. “gold and silver that might have funded gospel ministry was “corroding”” Very interesting point, especially in light of today’s current economic situation. What do you think Scriptures would say about the G20 summit and possible future actions such as replacing the dollar as the world’s currency? Is inflating paper currency really theft because it robs poor people of the little value that was in their currency to begin with? Do you think that the Bible is saying that gold and silver is real value and that fiat currency is really theft of the poor?

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