Work and Retirement (20 Jan 2013)

Work and Retirement – Is there retirement for Christians?

Children and young people study in schools so as to be able to secure jobs for themselves and honour their parents.  Young adults work long hours to secure a future for themselves. Parents work hard to provide for their children and aged parents. Older working adults wonder when they should stop work and retire from their jobs.

The word “work” and its cognates, “works,” “worketh,” and “working,” occur more than 700 times in the Bible (KJV). There are many other words that are associated with work, such as, do, make, study, transform, convict, judge, care, tend and so on.

The action words for work is vast. It includes create, modify, mend, cook, serve, feed, wash, study, farm, fish, nurse, heal, judge, drive, teach, account, usher, sing, fast, pray, assist, preach, and so on.

Each Person in the Holy Trinity works in unity, yet differently. For example, God the Father makes the sun shine and sends the rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous (Mat 5:45). God the Son, Jesus Christ, miraculously fed 5000 men (andres), i.e. excluding women and children with fish and bread in a huge out-door picnic. He upholds the universe by His power. The Holy Spirit sanctifies and strengthens Christians. He convicts hearers of sin when Christians share the gospel of Jesus Christ (Eph 3:16; Titus 3:5; John 16:8-9).  

Is there retirement from serving God?

Not for God. Jesus says, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” (John 5:17). Jesus also says, “A disciple (Gk “mathetes” i.e. learner, student) is not above his teacher, but every one when he is fully taught will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40). Can you retire from learning from Jesus? The answer is obvious. So we all have to keep learning from Jesus and imitate Him until we are perfect.

In Numbers 8:24-26, we can find a rare mention of “stop work” or “retire.” At the age of 50, the Levites “retire,” or “stop regular work,” or “no longer work/serve.” But that is not all. The context also says that the “retired” older Levites continue to serve by assisting the more able-bodied Levites.  They can do the lighter duties of assisting, advising, teaching and so on. Levites’ work is physically demanding – cleaning, slaughtering many animals, preparing fire, carrying purification water, and marching with the army.

Christian should rethink retirement in the LORD. Do heed these warnings:  1) For those who are self-indulgent, that person is already dead, even though he or she lives. (1Tim 5:6). 2) For the rich who say, “I have reserves that will last many years. Relax! Eat! Drink! Enjoy yourself!’” God calls that person a fool (Luk 12:19).

So what should you do? Start to cultivate an attitude of serving Christ in all that you do, irrespective of your age. Do all things with prayers and thanksgiving (Col 4:2). Ask if they are glorying to God. Work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men. You are serving the Lord Jesus Christ! (Col 3:23-24). Therefore, beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1Cor 15:58). The Christian never retires from serving Christ.

Elder Yoong Yuen Soo