Our modern-day cultural, economic, and social context is very different than what it was in the times the Bible was written in. The Bible doesn’t tell us how its truths apply in specific cultures; instead, it gives us the freedom to apply those truths in different ways in a variety of cultures without altering the truths themselves to fit the culture.
While work (especially “kingdom work”) should remain an important part of an older Christian’s life and that leisure and recreation are gifts from God but not meant to be our primary aim in life, we are nonetheless free to implement these biblical truths to our cultural concept of retirement. This is what theologians call “contextualization,” applying the Bible’s truths to a specific context. Larry Burkett and Ron Blue offer a good way to approach this: “We recommend viewing retirement as an adventure-filled next phase of life. Expect to work and seek meaningful work. Even if God has blessed you with adequate resources so that you need never work again, why waste your talents?”
The biblical teaching on work and rest and the stewardship principle can apply to people in different ways at different times of their lives, so retirement will look different for different people. But no matter what our circumstances in life, it is the transforming power of the gospel—the Good News about Jesus Christ—that will have the most significant effect on our thoughts, attitudes, and actions. If the Christian’s retirement is characterized by gospel centrality—meaning that saving faith in Christ has resulted in an inward transformation through the indwelling and empowering of his Holy Spirit—then all areas of life will be impacted, including the stage of life we call “retirement.”
The Gospel and Retirement
If we accept the idea that retirement is permissible, and indeed not explicitly prohibited in Scripture, then we are presented with some challenging questions. Not the least of these is, “How should we then live in retirement?”
As with all areas of the Christian life, we must begin with the gospel as revealed in the Word of God. Once we believe, we receive all of the grace “…given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” (Eph. 4:7.) This gospel of grace is central because it “… is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16a) and because believing the gospel transforms us from the inside out and gives us a new life in Christ, which affects everything about us: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17.)
We receive salvation by first hearing, understanding, and believing the gospel, and then responding to God's earnest plea, and finally by heartfelt repentance and faith in Christ alone for salvation. This salvation gives us the promise of eternal life, but it is more than that. The gospel not only changes our eternal destination, it also transforms our hearts and minds in the here and now. It changes our relationship to God, which is the best news of all, but it also transforms our relationship to everything else, including how we use our time, talents, and treasure for the sake of the gospel. Thus begins our new life in Christ as “we are transformed in every part of our minds, hearts, and lives by believing the gospel more and more deeply as life goes on.” As we believe, love, worship, follow, and obey Jesus, he changes how we view, plan for, and live in retirement.
With the gospel at the center and all that it entails—faith, confession, repentance, conversion—its transforming power affects how we steward the time, talents, treasure, and our testimony of the gospel itself. Each of those areas is further expanded into other dimensions of the Christian life that are vital to living in retirement in a way that honors and glorifies God: character and perseverance, calling and vocation, and stewardship and generosity.
Excerpted and adapted with permission from Reimagine Retirement by C.J. Cagle. Copyright 2019, B&H Publishing Group.
- 1 Corinthians is an excellent study on our Christian “liberty” to do or not do certain things, but not in a way the ignores biblical values and priorities and what it means to live life as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
- Larry Burkett and Ron Blue, Ron, Your Retirement After the Big 5-0 (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2007), 67.
- Dr. Timothy Keller, Shaped by the Gospel (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2016), 65
Everywhere we look there are books, articles, and websites dedicated to the subject—most of which are about how to get there fast, and how to enjoy it when you’re there. In this book, Chris Cagle, himself a recent retiree, challenges us to reimagine retirement from a distinctly Christian perspective. In the process, he will challenge our typical view of retirement as the ultimate reward for a life of hard work by asking key questions:
- What does the Bible have to say, if anything, about retirement?
- What would a God-honoring and glorifying retirement look like?
- If retirement is probable for most of us, how should we plan for it as wise stewards of the resources God has entrusted to our care?