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THEOLOGY OF RETIREMENT – BIG PICTURE

Numbers 8:23-25 – The Lord said to Moses, “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the Tent of Meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. 

This is the one and only place in the Scriptures that speak about retirement.

This passage says that at age 50, the Levites that have been working in the Tent of Meeting must retire from their regular service.

This chapter in Numbers clearly elevated the significance of the Levites, and their work, their hard work in the Tabernacle.  They were treated with dignity and honor, for they held a special function in the worship of God for the good of the community.  God knew of the hard and physical labor of the Tabernacle workers, the setup, tear down, and the transportation of the Tabernacle!  There was not to be any miscalculations, slips and/or falls in transportation, construction and deconstruction.  Extreme care was needed and necessary, and that is why God instituted a “retirement” age for those Levites working in the Tabernacle.  Now, I do not believe that God was NOT putting down those that were 50 years of age.  God knew the fragility of the human body with continued heavy labor, and he instituted this “retirement” from the heavy Tabernacle labors.

 

THEOLOGY OF RETIREMENT – WHAT IT IS NOT

They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the Tent of Meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.” (Numbers 8:26, NIV84)  

This point is very short, simple and clear, and verse 26 speaks to the three things surrounding a Tabernacle workers retirement:

  1. They are to assist (or Heb. “serve”) their brothers in the work of the Tabernacle.
  2. The retired worker must not do the work.
  3. And they are assigned this task and/or oversight.

With these three points in the text, one can say that “retirement” WAS NOT gathering your friends and heading over to the pool of siloam, the sea of Galilee or the Dead Sea and set up your beach chair for the day or week to get a suntan.  It is also not grabbing your friends and setting up a Tee Time at the Engedi Country Club or taking the family on an extended vacation at the Resorts in Hebron.  Retirement, according to these verses, is not “removement” OR retirement from work!

 

THEOLOGY OF RETIREMENT – WHAT IT IS

They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the Tent of Meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.” (Numbers 8:26, NIV84) 

To put it into a good and right perspective of what retirement is according to the Scriptures, TheologyOfWork.org said it best:

The pur­pose was not to remove productive workers from service, but to redirect their service in a more mature direction, given the conditions of their occupation. After retirement they could still “assist their brothers in the tent of meeting in carrying out their duties” (Num. 8:26). Sometimes, some faculties—judgment, wisdom, and insight, perhaps—may actually improve with increasing age. By “assisting their brothers,” older Levites transitioned to different ways of serving their communities. 

The modern no­tion of retirement that one would cease work and devote their time exclu­sively to leisure IS NOT found in the Bible…ANYWHERE!

Look again what our text says…

  1. They are to assist (or Heb. “serve”) their brothers in the work of the Tabernacle
  2. The retired worker must not do the work…
  3. And they are assigned this task and/or oversight.

In my own vernacular and assessment of this passage, the Tabernacle worker at age 50 was to stop doing the heavy lifting, take on a new assignment, which was either a task or it could have been a position of oversight, and in doing this, they were to assist those doing the “heavy lifting” in the work of the Tabernacle.

They never stopped working. They just shifted to another role in the Tabernacle work!

The Lord said to Moses, “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the Tent of Meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the Tent of Meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.” (Numbers 8:23–26, NIV84)  

 

Rethinking Retirement: Consider…Redeployment!

When I read Numbers 8:25 alone, I see retirement.  But if you continue on in the chapter, it is clear that the Levitical workers, in their “retirement years” are to assist, help, guard and/or attend to those that are currently serving in their previous role.  

This passage makes it clear that the Levite at age 50 is not relaxing by the pool and/or playing golf.  What I like to say is this…that at age 50 for the Levite, they are “redeployed!”  

During the redeployment years, one should plan on using our gifts, talents, and resources to start, continue, or increase our service to God and others either in a way that is familiar or in some new and expanded way.  God has gifted you in a certain way, with intentionally placed talents and gifts that could very well be a blessing to your local church and also a parachurch organization!  

Here are some of the things that could cross over from your working days to your redeployment days:

  • A CPA now choosing to help with their church’s bookkeeping
  • A hospital custodian choosing to care for, and maintain the flooring in the church
  • An electrician assisting the church/parachurch in some electrical updating and/or repairs
  • A computer technician or networker blessing their church with maintenance and upgrades to their computers and infrastructure
  • A receptionist ready, willing, and able to volunteer when the church receptionist is on vacation…or volunteer long term if needed.
  • A mechanic taking on the task to maintain and repair any/all church vehicles and power equipment
  • And the list can go on…and on…and on!

Consider using your retirement years to serve others, rather than be served. It is not wrong to enjoy your retirement years, but this is a great opportunity to increase your service to the Kingdom.

 

Redeployment: How to make it happen

  • First, we must understand that we tend to work A LOT in our modern culture.
    • It is not wrong to stop working.
    • We SHOULD take time to rest and to enjoy our family.
    • Recognize, we are not retiring FROM something, we are retiring TO something.
  • Second, there is seemingly a secular and sacred divide.
    • Many people feel guilty about working a secular job, thinking that their work is not worthy of the Kingdom.
    • But, ALL work is sacred because you are doing Kingdom work, even when working in a “secular” field.
    • ALL of us have been called to do our work to the glory of God.
  • Third, understand that your identity is not in your occupation
    • Don’t let your job define who you are.
    • If your identity is wrapped up in Christ, retirement won’t feel meaningless.

Plan for the future.

  • Understand what your need might be, and save to meet those needs.
  • Invest so you can have an income in your redeployment years.
  • Paying down debt today so you can be free from debt in retirement!
  • Work with someone knowledgeable (financial planner) to help you set goals today 
  • Living on a budget today so you can be a blessing to ministry tomorrow!

“What is wisdom? It’s a capacity of mind that combines the fear of the Lord with the skill of living in God’s created but fallen world in a way that yields justice, peace, and flourishing.”

Your retirement years are a great opportunity for you to apply the wisdom you have learned throughout your life. Steward your wealth of wisdom well.

As long as you have breath, God has a purpose for you to be doing something, so consider “redeployment” over our modern day concept of retirement.

Below are some thoughts to ponder as you process retirement vs redeployment:

  • As long as you have breath, God has a purpose for you to be doing something, so consider “redeployment” over our modern day concept of retirement.
  • Retiring from a job is not retiring from your life!  When thinking about retirement, you should not focus on what you are retiring from, but joyfully think about what you can be “redeploying” to.
  • Prayerfully consider how your retirement can be a “redeployment” to fulfill various Kingdom ministry needs that you are passionate about!  Some examples can include, but are not limited to: volunteering, short and long-term missions trips, mentoring, serving at a Christian school, serving in a local para-church ministry, ministering within your community, in addition to serving within your local church.  

You will come to the grave in full vigor, like sheaves gathered in season. (Job 5:26, NIV84)  

 

 


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