Retirement: Is it Scriptural?


Numbers 8:23-26 “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.”

I have heard lots of people saying that retirement is not Scriptural, but this direct quote from God answers that for me. Now, the quote is directed at the Levites, and some would say that it doesn’t apply to other groups. Jesus said lots of things to the disciples that we apply to ourselves, so I think it is right and fair to take this command directed at the Levites and apply it to our lives.

Let’s look a little deeper. Why would God not allow the priests to work past 50? I see a hint at succession planning here. If the old guy kept doing the work, and their life was long and prosperous as the Lord promised, then it would not open any places for the new young guns to take on their duties. Leadership would not pass down, and prepare the Jewish nation for the future. As a family, company and mission, we must always be looking to allow the younger ones to take ownership of the family name, the company’s business, and the mission’s dictates. Ownership comes by doing and contributing, not by watching someone else provide leadership. In your family, are you providing “spaces in leadership” where your children can take on the mantel of the family name. This can be done in little ways like having family meetings to decide where to go on vacation rather than the parents always making all the decisions. “People tend to support those things that they help create.”

Finally, the last part of the Scripture caught my attention. “They may assist their brothers in their duties, but they themselves must not do the work.” After we start to slow down, our jobs, more and more is to become consultants and advisors and coaches, and mentors to the young. We don’t do the work, but assist others. We can still be relevant and helpful in building the Kingdom of God, but we take on a different and important role. Change is hard, and we tend to cling to what we have known. There is a whole new future out there for older folks, and we need to embrace it with all our hearts.

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3 thoughts on “Retirement: Is it Scriptural?

  1. Judy Klaustermeyer says:

    Ah, I like this fresh perspective, Don, thank you.

  2. Delinda Higgns says:

    Thanks, Don. I know this to be true, and have lived through the trauma of leaders not willing to pass the baton. In fact, that very problem is the impetus behind research I’m currently doing in northern Nigeria, where the baton is being passed in magificent fashion. Yet I find it difficult to turn over leadership. It’s just so much easier to do it myself than to train someone else to do it. I’m very bad at practicing what I preach in this area. Thanks for the reminder.

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