Christian Retirement: an Oxymoron

“Likewise,[the older men] exhort the young men.”  Titus 2:6

Having reached that age when many in the past have faced compulsory retirement from employment it is pleasing that I do not have to follow such a fate. Several decades ago I observed men who were healthy at 65 years old but were very ill or dead by 66 or soon after. Their lives revolved around their work and when that ended they felt worthless. That was another encouragement for me to pursue Christian ministry.

Fortunately, for the Christian, there is no retirement until the Lord takes us home to be with Him. Consider what might have been if these people had ceased serving the Lord at 65 years:

  • Noah, who at 600 years of age built the ark and re-established the human race
  • Enoch walked with the Lord for all of his 300 years until the Lord “retired” him by taking him up in an individual “rapture.”
  • Abraham obeyed the Lord and left his family, friends and culture to go to another land without knowing where he would settle. He was 75 years of age when called and had the son of promise at age 100.
  • Moses, at 80 years delivered Israel out of bondage in Egypt. He endured the resistance of Pharaoh and then the complaints of Israel for a further 40 years. His leadership of the nation only ended when the Lord took life from his body.
  • From age forty, Joshua had led the fighting and developed an army for Israel and at 80 years he took over the leadership of the nation. He led Israel for a further thirty years until he died.
  • None of Jesus’ disciples went into retirement. They served the Lord Jesus until death, whether that came at an early age (James) or much later (John).

No matter how hard we may search the Bible there is no suggestion of retirement from serving the Lord Jesus Christ prior to His taking us from our earthly bodies. In fact one could make an argument that the most productive period in many Christian lives is the latter part when wisdom has finally been produced to go with youthful zeal.

In his letter to Titus one of the qualities of a sound church that Paul noted is that older men are training young men and the older women are training the young women (Titus 2:1-8). If the character of a church in our day is that the older men and women “retire” and do not fulfil this role or any spiritual role they will be inclined to sit back in judgment and criticise those who do. This may be a reason some churches have few young people and find it hard to get people to fulfil ministry roles.

In his later years Paul may have corrected Timothy and Titus but even from prison he was still training them and encouraging them. He did not consider that he had ever done his bit.

Christian retirement? Yes, it is an oxymoron!

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