“Don’t think of retiring from the world until the world will be sorry that you retire.” –Samuel Johnson
Accounting for almost 25% of the national budget, Social Security is the largest federally-funded program in the United States. Providing financial assistance for more than 46 million retired and disabled workers, Social Security has become the main source of stability for many Americans. Each month, one out of seven Americans receives a Social Security check./1
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the participation of older men in the American work force has decreased over the past 150 years. In 1850, 76% of men who were 65 years old were active in the labor force compared to just 17% in 2000. What has caused this 59% decrease over the past 150 years? Some say Social Security, but the data shows that this decline started 46 years before our Social Security program was started.
Today, Baby Boomers are now retiring at a rate of 10,000 per day. Likewise, many of these new retirees have living parents. What has caused this paradigm shift? I say that it is our affluence./2
Financial independence in the United States is unmatched to any other time in the history of mankind. Our independence allows us to spend more time in our pursuit of pleasure. This worldly view can also be found in the American church.
Unfortunately, many older and experienced saints, who now have the time to evangelize, choose to retire from servant-hood. Recently I heard a gray-headed disciple say, “I have done my tour of duty; now, it is time for someone else to teach.” This causes me to question, is there such a thing as Christian retirement?
There are legitimate reasons that prevent one from service (Numbers 8:24-26; Philippians 2:25-30; 1 Timothy 5:3-14), but should we equate our retirement with rest (Hebrews 4:1-16)? Perhaps our elderly wealth and health are intended for a greater purpose (Psalm 71:18; Colossians 3:17). Christian, are you up for the task?
“O land of rest, for thee I sigh!
When will the moment come,
When I shall lay my armor by,
And dwell in peace at home?”
1/ On January 31, 1940, Ida May Fuller was the first American to receive a monthly Social Security check. She is pictured above. In 1889, German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck was the first to provide national benefits for retired workers. He set the retirement age at 70, but after his death the standard was lowered to 65. In 1936, this German model was adopted by the United States.
2/ Due to better diet and good health care, the life expectancy of Americans has increased since 1850.
Christ provides a rest which is greater than any retirement program.