Retirement – Is it Biblical?
Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere
your God. I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:32
The bible does not speak specifically to the subject of retirement. But just because this topic is not addressed, we must not conclude that retirement is unbiblical. The bible does not address riding in an airplane, but we don’t conclude therefore that airplane rides are unbiblical.
The bible does address the subject of aging and treatment of the elderly. Therefore, though we may not have an organizational obligation to those who are older, we do have a moral and a biblical obligation to them.
The OT elders and the NT elders were people of influence and authority. While not exactly equivalent, we can draw guidance from both examples of how they contributed to the work of God and how they were to be treated by others.
Peter reminds us, “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older.” (1 Peter 5:1-5) Note that these passages speak to both attitudes and contribution for the elders. And Paul says, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5:17)
Leviticus 19:32 exhorts us to, “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD.” James 1:27 also reminds us, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Passages that address the treatment of aging parents are also instructive for us. Jesus made sure that his own mother was well cared for after His death by entrusting her care to the Apostle John (see John 19:25-27). It’s fascinating to contemplate that the care of Jesus’ mother was remanded to an apostle and not to one of His own family members.
Paul instructs Timothy concerning the care of aging parents, “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” (1 Timothy 5:8) He continues, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)