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Monday, May 30, 2005

Work and Retirement

Modified from Punch, May 16, 1917, as uploaded by Project Gutenberg
(for illustrative purposes only--I don't play golf--so far!)

Our Sunday School lesson for May 29th had this as part of the text:

2 Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, If any will not work, neither let him eat.
For we hear of some that walk among you disorderly, that work not at all, but are busybodies.
Now them that are such we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.
But ye, brethren, be not weary in well-doing. (ASV)

There's also this: 1 Thessalonians 4:11 and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your hands, even as we charged you;

I told my University that I would not be available to work for the next academic year, except, possibly, on a part-time basis. My salary slot has been filled. My wife has already finished her work as a public school teacher. Her slot has, too. We are, in short, retiring.

What, if anything, does the Bible say about retirement? Does retirement violate this, and other, biblical commands to work?

I have found a few web pages on this matter. Here's one that gives some history of retirement as an idea in the U. S., and says that Social Security should be abolished, because it leads to violations of the 4th and 5th commandments. This page points out that Samuel gave a retirement speech, upon the selection of Saul to be king, and he promised to continue the work of prayer for Israel. (1 Samuel 12:23)

Here are a few thoughts:
>Humans are expected to work, and to contribute toward their own support. (There must be exceptions for young children and for infirmity.) This is not only fulfilled by working for pay, but by other work, which may not be paid, but is just as important, such as edifying others, housework, maintenance, and care for those unable to care for themselves.
>For many retired workers, retirement funds are a form of compensation for previous work. However, I don't believe that that entirely relieves retired persons from keeping busy, or from helping others.
>At least some work, of some types, is good for us. Physical effort, in moderation, is good for us.
Work should be satisfying, at least occasionally. A worker should be able to look back on a good job well done. There is something wrong with a society where some types of work are so disconnected from the final worthwhile product that workers can't get satisfaction out of their work.
>Work should not interfere with being able to worship (not necessarily on Sunday morning).
>The end product of work should be for the good of others. Some lines of work (prostitution, drug dealing, working to cheat others) are morally wrong. There is something terribly wrong with a society where some people can't seem to support themselves without making their bodies into sex objects. There is also something terribly wrong with a society where cutting corners (for example by illegally influencing legislation, violating legitimate regulations, mistreating employees, or cheating customers) is rewarded highly. (I am not sure that some kinds of speculation are really useful work.)
Study and learning are usually useful work.
>There is something fundamentally wrong with a society where the pay of supervisors is two or more orders of magnitude above that of those who are actually producing the product, especially if supervisor pay is not linked to wise management.
>We place too much value on entertainment. Entertainment is legitimate, in moderation, but retirement spent mainly in seeking entertainment is fundamentally wrong, as is a working life aimed at such a retirement. There is something seriously wrong in a society which compensates entertainers so highly, and doesn't compensate many of those who care for relatives at all, and those in caring and protective professions so poorly.
>There is no legitimate retirement from serving God, although the way we serve Him may change with changing circumstances.

I may post some more about this matter in the future. Let me close with an admonishment to younger readers: save for your retirement! It's never too early! I guess that this indicates that I expect, and hope, to find justification for what I have done, namely retired.

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