John Calvin believed that work is as much a part of worship as giving. In the Christian community we talk about work as worship, work as ministry and work as stewardship.
We often think of the work that we are required to do in order to earn a living. We then separate that work from our spiritual life and role as one of God’s stewards. Stewards of what? Well, steward of everything is the most inclusive definition. Stewardship requires work, yours and mine. So work is so much more than expending the time and energy to "earn a living".
Not only do we work, but our work is a reflection of the nature of God. We are made in God’s image and we know that He worked to create the world and works today in our daily lives.
Let's take an even closer look at "work". It is comforting to know that each of us are both chosen to be a friend of God’s and called to roles in His Kingdom. There are general roles for all and then specific roles for each of us in His kingdom. To put it another way, God is at work in both of those areas, choosing and calling, being chosen and being called. First we have to respond to the "choosing" with a step of faith. After that, we go to work and carry out the "calling." So both God and His creation, you and me, are in fact working together.
While we are in the process of working at our calling, God is also at work in our circumstances. He prepares us, strengthens and upholds us. This is how He enables us to carry out our stewardship mission. How comforting is that? We are not alone. We have His wisdom and power to support, strengthen and uphold us. It sure makes a difference in those tough circumstances and difficult situations…. you know, the ones that totally get you down.
Nothing gets done unless someone does something…. that something we call "work." Work for which we are either already prepared or tasks we are working on that will in fact prepare us for what is next. The next step in carrying out God’s call on our life. By the way, those next steps extend for a lifetime, not just a season.
So here is the rub given our current culture's perspective of the last quarter of our life.... retirement. The rub is that our culture embraces the perspective that at retirement we will stop working. Stop working and focus only on satisfying ourselves. In other words, we will do nothing but focus on our own desires and pleasures.
On the other end of the spectrum is the supposed Christian mantra that “I’m never going to retire”. "I will never stop working". The assumption that goes along with this life view, is that the work will provide an ongoing income too. The back story is that this mantra presupposes never stopping earning. Work for pay becomes the lifetime annuity. That is unrealistic for sure. I just can’t envision hiking to the office at 90.
So what is a God honoring perspective of work and of retirement?
What you do in retirement, your work during retirement, is in fact your response to the opportunities God puts right in front of you and has uniquely prepared for you.
Pretty cool. You are prepared by a lifetime of service to carry out a uniquely called mission extending not for a season, but for a lifetime. This also presupposes that you have prepared financially for this strategic time of service.
I take great comfort in knowing that regardless of my age or circumstance, God is at work preparing me for a lifetime of service…. service for a lifetime. We will explore the three stages of retirement in another blog. The great comfort comes from knowing that there will always be meaning and purpose in my life fulfilling God’s call which always means “changed lives”.
All this is true if you are spiritually prepared and the results of your financial stewardship give you the freedom to respond to God's call.
Love to hear your thoughts on this subject.
Work is a sacred activity and when done to His glory fulfills our mission to the world.