I recently spoke with a man who is preparing to retire, he has spent as many do an entire lifetime in the workforce, providing for the needs of his family, watching as the children grew up, and is now, finally, ready to enjoy what he calls the twilight years of his life. Because of the country that he lives in, there is what is called retirement money awaiting him, approximately half or a little less than what he was making while employed, and, on top of that, he was wise with his investments, and although it is not a large sum of money, it should be enough to supply their needs for around the next ten years or so.
He has yet to decide if he will seek out a part time position somewhere, something that would provide a stipend, as it were, a little extra cash to perhaps help make ends meet, and has not as yet made the final decision when he will retire, for he is as all of us are, unsure of how much longer the Lord has for him in this world, and so of course, the question for him is how much money is enough. That is not the question that I would like to address today though in this letter to you, that question would be, which world should he be working for if and when he does decide to retire from the workforce.
There is an extreme difficulty that the lost face when this time of their life approaches, not when will they retire from the workforce, but when are they prepared to retire from life, for that is how they see it, they are in many ways virtually the same for them. The greatest fear that these have is that they will no longer be useful to society, their value not only in their own eyes, but as they suppose it to be in the eyes of those in the world around them, will be diminished, for their services are no longer necessary, they have outlived their usefulness. This man understands that when he does stop going to the nine-to-five that he will still be making the same amount of money that he was when he was employed, in fact, it is actually just a little bit more, and although the government stipend that he is allotted is guaranteed, as much as anything can be guaranteed, the investment money will eventually run out, for he did not start it in his youth. His thoughts are to say the least conflicting, for if the Lord allows him to stay on this plant for another twenty years or so, the bulk of the money, as it were, will eventually run out, and things could become difficult, though in faith he understands that is of course in the hands of God, but if he continues to work, well, for how much longer, life is coming to a close, and he does not feel that work, at least for money, is a path that would continue to be seen as a good investment of his final years. And of course the most important aspect of all of this, and the main topic of this letter to you today, what happens when the feelings of uselessness to society begin to creep in, how is he to find value outside of the world and its supposed needs.
It is a thought provoking conundrum if you take the time to think about it, this man has spent the last almost fifty years, half of a century, attending to the needs of the world, and being reimbursed with money, bringing the paycheck home to his loving wife so that their needs can be taken care of. Now, since he has reached a particular age in life, he is able to stay at home, putter around the house if you will, study the Word of God with no real time limits, and devote himself entirely, finally, to the Scriptures, and at the same time receive money in the mail without having to get up and go to work for it anymore. The problem then lies within his mind, how long will the money last, and how long will he be here on earth. To continue to be employed only for the sake of money has become loathsome in his eyes, he has begun to detest the knowledge, although has accepted it, that all of his endeavors for the last half-century have been only for the pursuit of money and the items that can be purchased with it, although he also understands that it was in this way that his Lord has provided for him and his family, but how much longer should it continue, how much money is enough, when should he leave in its entirety this world and serve only for the world to come.
But onto the main topic, where will this man find his value to society, and should he? Which world should he live in, or should the effort still, though to a lesser degree the materialistic, still be devoted to them both, the materialistic and the spiritual, when the opportunity has finally arrived, has finally become available for him to spend the last years of his life completely to the studying of the Scriptures. The idea that one can begin to live a life without the need to go and earn money each day because there is money coming in, is one that many, if not all, attain to, but for how will the money last, and of what value will he be to the world that he has strived for so long to attain the things of it, not to mention the day to day necessities of it. Is our own value in our own eyes so strong of a pull that we feel as if we are necessary to the continuance of the planet, will we feel “less than” because we are no longer needed, is that pull so strong that we are willing to continue in it until the body is simply unable to perform the tasks any longer, when must a man say within himself, enough, I have served this world long enough, and will that man be able to find a value in his life that is sufficient enough to keep his value intact, in no matter what form it takes.
This is not a question of when you can retire, it is a question of should I retire. If you believe that this world and all that is in it should be the main focus of your life, that you are necessary even in the smallest way to it then you will be sorely disappointed when that day comes that the truth is shown to you, you are not, and in all reality never have been, at least not in the long term view. Many want to leave their mark, and these will have much difficulty when they finally have to come to the realization that their mark was too small to see. This world offers only one promise, someone will be taking your place someday, you will over time be forgotten, all of your accomplishments were only of a temporary value, this world that you worked so hard for is going to be fine without you.
There are many points in our lives where we must take a step of faith, and if that faith is not in the providential leadership of Christ, it will be of no faith whatsoever. This man will not stop working, his work placement will be modified into one of service to the Lord in a timeframe that has always been sought after, one that is not interrupted by the call of the transitory world, one that does not think of the paychecks to come, one that must rest more than ever before in faith. He must trust that the obligations that will still enter into his life will be met by the Lord in his old age. The time has come to make a decision, life is coming to a close, the sunset is quite visible, the river that he has been preparing to cross has become visible, and the world and all of its pulls are now to be left behind. If the money runs out, our Lord will provide, as he has for the entirety of this man’s life, the path will be just as straight as it was before, the gate has become much closer. “Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth.” (Psalm 71:9)
There is not enough to build new barns and take a life of ease for this man, but that is not the way of our Lord, and never has been, the work will continue, only from that time forward when the decision is made, it will be continuously for the world to come. This world has received enough, the balance must be shifted, the One to serve does not reside in this world, but awaits in the next, and the reward is far beyond any that this earth can offer. Which world my friends, where are your values placed today. “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25)