Question:

Does the Bible say anything about people retiring after a certain age? Are there any examples of this in Scripture?  We live in a world where society seems to make retirement the goal, and I was wondering if there are any scriptures or people that back this up?

Answer:

We know that people had dreams of working hard and then taking it easy later in life, but not in a positive way.

"Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry."' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God"" (Luke 12:16-21).

The rich man's problem wasn't that he planned to take it easy. The problem what he made no plans regarding God. His focus was in creating a nest egg. He reached that goal, but it was only a temporary one. Thus all his effort was wasted because he never focused on the eternal goal.

In a sense Joshua "retired." He gave his farewell speech when he was old (Joshua 23:1ff), but he didn't not die until some time later (Joshua 24:28-29). Really, what happens with most people is that they slow down from age. Thus you find a description of peace as, "Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each one with his staff in his hand because of great age. The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets" (Zechariah 8:4-5). The elderly watched over the young while the adults work to provide the family a living.

Few people were able to actually save up to pay their own way through their late years. Instead, family was expected to provide for them. When Obed was born, a part of the praise to Naomi was, "And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age ..." (Ruth 4:15). Care for parents in their elderly years was a part of what God meant by "Honor your father and mother." It was the Pharisees' attempts to avoid that obligation that upset Jesus. "But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God" -- then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition" (Matthew 15:5-6). Care for our elderly relatives is commanded of Christians, "If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows" (I Timothy 5:16).

We've gone generations where people have been basically planning and caring for themselves. It has come to the point that it is expected. Few make plans to care for their parents in their old age -- they are too focused on their own needs later.

Personally, I don't plan on retiring. Preachers don't get paid much anyway, so the chance of building a nest egg is slim. I figure I'll be forced to slow down eventually, but I'll keep doing what I can. "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4). But then, Christians have the ultimate retirement plan. "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience" (Hebrews 4:9-11).