Some things in life are inevitable: taxes, change, death, and yes, growing old. Of course, the older we get, old becomes a relative term. How old is “old?” Some people can’t wait until they are “old enough” to retire. I searched and searched, but I could not find anything in the Bible that talks about retirement.
Nothing. Not a word!
Most people spend the majority of their life working. They can’t wait for the day when they no longer have to “go to work.” The statistics on retirement are scary. If a person has no plans or goals, no hobbies, passions or interests to pursue in retirement, they end up dying in less than 5-7 years. People who live the longest, the healthiest and the happiness, are those who spend their time, after retiring, volunteering and helping others in need.
In the Bible you see people working and serving God right up until they died. Their service and contribution may change as they get older. For example in Titus 2, Paul urges the older women to train the younger women. Older men are to mentor younger men. God wants you to pass down your hard-earned wisdom and experience, often learned in the “School of Hard Knocks!” The truth is you have a lot to offer the older you get.
Today, many people dismiss the elderly and what they have to teach us. That is a huge mistake. And today, too many elderly feel useless. “I’m over the hill and picking up speed. I have nothing more to contribute. I’m not needed or wanted.” Say’s who? Some elderly hold pity parties for themselves. “Nobody cares, so why should I? Nobody cares if I live or die!” Wait a minute! What about God, who gave his Son to die so you could live? And way too many elderly live in fear, which paralyzes them and keeps them from doing productive things with the life they still have.
I love the attitude of Caleb. He was one of the twelve spies Moses sent out to scout the Promised Land and bring back a report. Ten of the spies brought back a negative, fear-filled report. Only Caleb and his partner Joshua brought back a positive, faith-filled report. Because the people believed the report of the ten, God made that generation wander around in the wilderness for 40 years. Fast forward to the end of the 40 years. The Israelites have conquered most of the Promised Land and the time has come to distribute the land. Read Joshua 14:6-15. Here is Caleb, 85 years young, asking Joshua if he could take the unconquered hill country that where the Anakites (giants from whom Goliath descended) lived. “So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day.” Does that sound like someone ready for mothballs and a rocking chair to you?
Most of the world’s greatest contributions, discoveries, creations, literary and artistic works were all done by people well past the age of retirement. Grandma Moses started painting in her 70’s. Galileo was 73 when he made some of his greatest discoveries. Thomas Edison’s greatest inventions all came after age 65. Winston Churchill guided England through the bitter years of WW II. And when Ronald Reagan skillfully led the United States as president, he started serving in his 70’s. So, instead of thinking about retirement as a “throwing in the towel,” view it as a time when you can be your most productive. Your best years are ahead, not behind you. And, of course, the older we get, the more attractive the eternity Christ earned for us with his death and resurrection looks. So, bring on those giants! Let me at those mountains!