Should We Ever Really “Retire”?

June 25, 2013

This post was adapted from my book Money: God or Gift. To learn more about personal finance, money, and stewardship, visit theMoneyMission.com.

Are you a Rich Fool?

Sounds harsh, I know. The thing about the Rich Fool is he doesn’t even have to be rich. He simply needs to care more about his stuff than the Creator of all his stuff. We can all fall into the foolish trap and forget that “life does not consist in the abundance of our possessions.”

This trap poses a lot of questions for managing our money. Does this mean we’re to avoid possessions entirely and take a vow of poverty? Should we not then be saving for retirement? How can we be wise and plan for the future without becoming the Rich Fool?

We live in a world of unexpected car repairs, costly medical care, and long life expectancies. It would be foolish—and dangerous—to spend all our resources on day-to-day expenses. The lesson of the Rich Fool is not “don’t plan.” Rather, the Bible offers numerous guidelines for how to save for the future in a way that honors God.

Honor god by building up savings through hard work—not get-rich-quick-schemes

Throughout his letters, Paul encourages us to labor, persist, and press on if they expect to see any progress in faith and in life. Proverbs also includes many verses on the connection between diligent work and long-term planning:

  • Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise . . . she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. (Prov. 6:6, 8)
  • Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it. (Prov. 13:11)
  • The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. (Prov. 21:5)
  • Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house. (Prov. 24:27)

Honor God by aligning your saving goals with his mission

The Rich Fool saved up to bless himself while the Proverbs ant saved to bless its family. Paul reinforces the call to provide for our families while also challenging the rich to use their resources for the good of others.

“Do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.” (1 Tim. 6:18) If your objective in saving is to simply build wealth, you will “fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” (1 Tim. 6:9)

Honor God by not being anxious about saving

Save as an act of prudence and stewardship, not as an act of anxiety and fear of what the future may hold. (Luke 12:22-34) God does not require us to save, but he does require us to trust him.

Honor God by retiring to give—not to get

Work is a good thing. Right from the beginning, before sin even entered the picture, Adam had a job: to work and keep the Garden of Eden. (Gen. 2:15) Though work became laborious toil after the Fall, that doesn’t change the fact that we were built to work, and to bring glory to God in doing so. (1 Cor. 10:31) Exactly what this looks like, however, will change with age.

The word “retirement” is not in the Bible. Faithfully saving money over the course of a lifetime and having the ability to quit your job is not a bad thing, provided your post-work years are spent worshiping Jesus (not comfort and ease). In fact, such a transition could be a great gift if the extra time is used to start a business that gives the proceeds away, invest in our families, serve our church, and help those God brings into our life.

That’s not to say it’s wrong to enjoy golf, naps, and other good things God has given, but he didn’t create us to hit cruise control at age sixty-five. We’re storing up treasure for heaven, not treasure for retirement.

The Rich Fool took his wealth to be his own—not a gift from God. When he died, he lost everything. Those who focus on others, however, giving, saving, and spending to honor God, grow rich toward him. And when they die, they will gain everything. (Col. 3:1-4)

In the meantime, how much you’re able to give, save, and spend will vary from season to season. You may not always be able to do as much as you’d like, but don’t make that an excuse to give up. Pray and plan in order to make sustained improvement and progress over a long period of time.

For more on practical stewardship, pick up a copy of Money: God or Gift for $2.99 on Amazon.