GIVING | JUN 3, 2022

Living and Giving During Retirement

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Donna Nicholson Stief

Interestingly, the bible does not have much to say about retirement. This is not a bad thing. After all, the bible doesn’t say anything about vacations, birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, or honeymoons either. And all those things are good. There is only one reference in the book of Numbers, chapter 8, where retirement is loosely mentioned. In this passage, God instructs the Levites for men over the age of 50 to withdraw from a specific duty of service and then assist and serve their fellow Levites and guard the Tabernacle, where the younger rotated into their work position. If the Bible says so little about retirement, how are we to interpret it and what are we to do about it?

The Origin of Retirement

Retirement is a more modern-day privilege, historically speaking. In 1883 German Chancellor Otto Von Bismark introduced a retirement program, offering a pension to those after turning age 60. In the United States, Franklin D Roosevelt proposed the Social Security Act of 1935, instructing workers to pay into their own retirement. The idea was to allow younger men and women to enter the workforce and have jobs available to them by allowing those who are older to withdraw from the workforce and still be able to support themselves.

To understand how to transition to retirement in a way that honors God, we need to dive deeper into what God has created us to do. God gave Adam a job, even before the fall of man. Genesis chapter 2:15 reads, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” God himself is always at work.

Working and being productive is a good thing according to God. There are many passages in the bible that support the act of working and earning a living. But there’s no biblical support for stopping work altogether and living solely for our own pleasure.

For as long as we have breath in our lungs, God wants us to remain kingdom-focused, allowing Him to use us to bless others. It’s undoubtedly okay to retire from years and years of being in the workforce, but that doesn’t mean we retire from allowing God to use us and use our earthly possessions for eternal purposes. We can retire from our job, but we should never retire from our mission of spreading the gospel, being useful to God, and blessing others.

Tithing and Giving During Retirement

Should one tithe during retirement? To answer this question, we must first distinguish that tithing and giving are not synonymous. By definition, the tithe is correlated explicitly to our increase or more commonly referred to as our income. During retirement, you may feel like you are living off saved money that was previously tithed; therefore, you technically do not need to tithe it again.

However, we are always to remain givers, living openhandedly with what God has given us. Furthermore, hopefully, your retirement savings has grown over time (an increase that you should tithe on). Or, you may look at your Social Security check and know that this check was funded through taxes you paid from income previously tithed – but you may also note that half of your social security taxes were paid by your employer as well – so technically, you should tithe on half of your social security benefits.

God owns all things, including our savings, stocks, bonds, 401k’s, properties, and all other possessions he’s entrusted to us, even the monies previously tithed. God is not legalistic, and therefore we want to be careful not to approach tithing legalistically. As for giving, there is no economic or financial condition in which we are not to give.

The church of Macedonia is a great example of this. In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes about the Macedonian churches. They were in the midst of severe trial and extreme poverty, yet they joyfully overflowed in rich generosity. While they lacked income, they were incredibly generous to one another, taking care of each other with the possessions they did have.

The poor widow in Mark chapter 12 gave and did so out of her poverty. How beautiful is the heart that gives lovingly out of poverty? We’re still talking about her 2,000 years later - what an impact she made! With that background, would you consider praying and asking God how he would want you to steward, invest and be generous with what he has provided to you?

The bible does caution us against excessive savings. In Luke 12, Jesus tells the parable about the rich fool who had excess crops. He said to himself, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “you have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded of you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

It’s good to be wise and prepare for retirement, but the purpose of saving for retirement is not to selfishly store up treasure for ourselves here on earth. God is not against storing up treasure. He’s a proponent of storing up treasure for ourselves, but the right kind of treasure, treasure stored up in Heaven.

God cautions against selfish motives for excessive savings. Wisdom calls us to save and not to be a burden on our family. In our retirement years, we should account for the expenses of health care, housing, and all the necessities to live a healthy lifestyle.

It’s okay to enjoy your retirement years, spending time with grandchildren and doing the things you may not have been able to do when you were working and raising a family. These are certain things to look forward to, but we also want to look forward to being used by God to bless and help others. Retiring from our occupation is one thing. But we never retire from our mission, introducing others to Jesus and living a life that is open-handed toward God.

Repurpose-ment vs. Retirement

The transition to retirement begs the question, “how can I live my best years now that I’m retired?” It’s exciting to think through the possibilities and how retirement can be reframed as a repurposes-ment of our lives, living and giving like never before. Retirement doesn’t have to be the end of our best years but rather the beginning!

We start by asking ourselves, what does God have for me now? If we’re looking at it the right way, we can repurpose ourselves rather than retire. There’s no better way to seek the answers to this question than asking to be led by the Holy Spirit. If we aren’t listening, we’ll miss it. If we aren’t looking for God at work, we’ll miss that too. We find answers in prayer.

Prayer is not to be underestimated. The Lord will bring powerful and impactful ways for us to build His Kingdom as we transition to our repurpose-ment years if we seek Him first. It may seem like a scary prayer to ask: “God, what do you want me to give? Where do you want to use me?”

Fear is not of the Lord, so let us be willing and excited to see what God calls us to in this phase of our life. Those who are retired or are ready for that transition can reflect upon our lives, take account of all our experiences, mistakes, lessons learned, and wisdom gained, and use that to speak into the lives of others, making a remarkable impact. God has a unique plan for every individual, and he has a unique plan for you. Ask God what your repurpose-ment looks like, and then live open-minded and open-handed toward His answer.

For Further Reading:

When, What, and How to Teach Your Kids About Money

The 3 “Must Have” Components of an Effective Stewardship Ministry

A Stewardship Ministry in Every Church

Managing Wealth - An Issue of the Heart

3 Main Reasons a Budget Fails

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