Retirement: Is it Biblical?
“2024 marks the beginning of the ‘Peak 65’ Zone,” a recent report declared. It’s the “largest surge of Americans turning 65 (retirement age) in our nation’s history.”
Sometimes called the “Silver Tsunami,” from 2024 through 2027, 11,200+ of us will turn 65 every day – that’s more than 4.1 million of us every year.
So maybe it’s a good time to ask: what does the Bible say about retirement?
Of course, the question is not merely academic for me. Since I announced the search for my successor in April of last year, more than one person has said to me with a bit of surprise or curiosity in their voice: “I hear you are retiring. But I don’t see anything in the Bible about retirement.”
So what does the Bible say? Is there anything in God’s word about retirement?
The answer is yes. In the Old Testament book of Numbers, the Bible says that Levites (those responsible for setting up, taking down, and transporting the tent of meeting) should serve from age 25 to age 50. Then, “they shall withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more. They minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but they shall do no service” (Numbers 8:25-26, ESV).
Or as the NLT renders it, “they must retire at the age of fifty. After retirement, they may assist their fellow Levites by serving as guards at the Tabernacle, but they may not officiate in the service” (Numbers 8:25-26, NLT).
In other words, the Levites retired from a role but not from serving the Lord altogether. The same should be true for us.
We should never retire from following Jesus. We should never diminish our commitment to living for God’s glory. We should not withdraw from active participation in the church. We should always “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33, ESV).
But as was the case for the Levites, if we live long enough, there will likely come an age or life stage when it is wisest and best for us to retire from one role and assume another.
So is retirement biblical? Yes and no. It depends on how you ask the question.
We may leave a particular role or lay down a certain set of responsibilities, but as long as we have breath, we should plan to be fully devoted followers of Jesus who are committed to fighting the good fight, finishing the race, and keeping the faith (cf. 2 Timothy 4:7).
God grant that we might bring him glory in every season of life – our prime working years, our retirement, and until the day we die!
Your Pastor and Friend,