Should Christians retire?

“Even when I am old and grey, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come” (Psalm 71:18)

It’s part of the Australian dream – after years of hard work, packing up the desk and beginning what will hopefully be several years of retirement. For many “grey nomads” it involves loading up the caravan and travelling around the nation.

The concept of retirement from work at age 65 is actually a fairly recent idea. In this article, Albert Mohler explains that most historians trace the origin of retirement back to Germany in the late 19th century. Retirement as we understand it has only been around for 100 years or so.

The Bible of course strongly commends rest. But what about the concept of retirement – is that Biblical? Should Christians retire?

One way of responding to this question is by considering the idea that humans have been “wired to work”. Part of who we are as humans made in the image of God is workers. God is a worker. As people made in His image we’re made to work too (Genesis 1:26-28). It’s a part of our identity. We’ve been “wired to work”. This aspect of our identity doesn’t change depending on our age – part of who we are as people made in the image of God is workers, from the moment we are born, throughout our life and even into eternity. What does change however is our ability to work. As we grow up we become more able to do certain tasks. Likewise as we get older and our strength and energy deteriorates our ability to continue to do certain tasks fades.

So should Christians retire? Not in the way that our culture talks about retirement. Being a worker always remains a part of our identity. However it is right to recognise our limitations both as we grow up and as we grow older. We will need to scale back what we do. And rest is a necessary part of any person’s life who wants to honour God. But to say that at age 65 we retire from work denies a part of our identity, as people made in the image of God, the ultimate worker.

What work could our later years in life involve? The verse from Psalm 71 above suggests one important thing: declaring God’s power to the next generation. This great suggestion was also made via our Facebook page in response to the question of whether Christians should retire – “Maybe from full-time, paid employment, but never from doing the work of God – going out and making disciples, mentoring younger people, assisting the widows and orphans, advocating for those who have no voice. My dad often wonders how he had time to go to work!”. We couldn’t agree more.