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Is Retirement Murder?

After volunteering on a farm for a week, I realized that I love to work. There is a meaningful task to perform at virtually every moment of every day on a farm. Cleaning, mowing, reaping, sowing, feeding, repairing, cooking and preparing. I was born for purpose, I was born to work, and I was born for fellowship. Work is not a curse and never has been. Anxiety is a curse and anxiety makes work difficult. But work itself is no curse. Most people that I have worked for in my life have been retired, but they didn’t retire from work.

Is Retirement Murder?

They retired from stockpiling money in order to work at the things that they enjoy and find fulfilling. After retirement, they work at their golf game, they work at being a more involved grandparent, they work at relationships, they volunteer at the soup kitchen and Habitat for Humanity. Some people retire and spend their final days completely on themselves, but most people I met sought after some meaningful task to fulfill them in their retirement. That is wonderful! We all need purpose and we all need fulfillment. However, we also all need money. And most of us go about our daily lives seeking to get more of it so that we too can have a happy retirement. However, I think we have our eyes on the wrong end of the telescope. Retirement is great but are we planning on putting off obeying the voice of Jesus until we can afford it? Are we busy chasing security when Jesus is calling us to come follow Him now? Mark tells us in his gospel that “As Jesus was going along the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” Mark 1:16-18.

Retirement or Fishers of Men?

Mark is fond of the word “immediately”, using it quite frequently in his gospel. His gospel is also the shortest and most breathless of the four gospels. Mark seems to be almost in a panic to share the gospel with us, the way a boy who has just heard amazing news would run to tell his friends. As a young man, passionate about Jesus, but also vain and impetuous, I almost took this passage too literally, in part because I also wanted to get away from a difficult relationship that was connected with my occupation at the time. That being said, we shouldn’t doubt that Mark really means that Simon and Andrew immediately left their nets to follow Jesus. It is not as though they ran off leaving their partners stuck in the boat they failed to tie to the dock, but it does mean that they didn’t wait until it was convenient to take action. There is a sense too in which inaction is never convenient. If your nation is being oppressed by evil powers, is it practical to do nothing about it? I think the disciples may have been fishing and praying that God would give them a way to do something more. When that opportunity came, they were ready. The disciples did not live in luxury anything close to what you and I know. They were poor and eked out a living by the sea. They couldn’t afford to abandon their hand to mouth business and neither could their families. But on their other hand, the people of Israel were their larger family and that family couldn’t afford for the disciples to delay their obedience. The Messiah would deliver the people of God, therefore they believed the best way for them to serve their family’s was by serving their God through the Messiah. This was a calculated risk but a risk all the same. All of us live on a farm. The world itself is nothing less than an enormous, majestic farm, full of beauty, fruits, mountains, valleys, rivers, deserts, forests, beaches, animals, barns, and storehouses. But it is also full of storms, diseases, thieves, disasters, blight and plague. There is meaningful work to be done every minute of every hour of every day. There is no lack of purpose. The only lack you can find in the world is a lack of faith. Jesus didn’t say to the disciples, “Go to college, get a good job, wait to get married, wait to have kids, only have two or at most three, work late, save money, invest well, plan for retirement, secure a good healthcare plan, and then, if you should survive to the golden years and you are still in good enough health for some light activity, have a few meaningful tasks to perform every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon.” No! Jesus said, “Follow Me.” And the disciples “immediately left their nets and followed Him.” Why should the world that God created wait on you to finish securing yourself before you are willing to attempt to fulfill one small part of your obligation to it?

Security and Retirement

I am reminded of Jesus’ parable concerning the tenants and the vineyard owners in Luke 20. The tenants were supposed to bring the fruit of the land back to the vineyard owner but instead they attempt to arrest the vineyard for themselves. And in their panic to claim what actually belonged to God, they murdered the rightful heir of the property. Am I saying that we are guilty of murder by focusing on our retirement instead of on God’s will for us? I will put it this way, every act of selfishness is a putting to death of the rest of the world. But the God in whose image we have been made is not selfish, but rather allows Himself to be murdered so that the rest of the world may live! Let us consider once again the words of Jesus regarding the paying of taxes to Caesar: “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God!” Caesar has printed his image on the face of his coins, so give him back what he claims as his own. But YOU were printed with the image of God Himself - who does that indicate that you belong to and owe everything to? God who reveals His face in the image of a crucified Jew, was crucified so that the rest of the world might live, and now calls us to look like Him in this way too. Caesar sucked the life out of his dominion in an attempt to secure his own position. Jesus poured out Himself to death so that the world might live. The world is a farm and you are either working it to bear fruit for life and for the glory of God, or you are stealing from it to establish your own cartoon of a kingdom somewhere within God’s dominion. The vineyard Owner’s Son is knocking at the door. What is your response to Him?

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