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Should Christians Save for Retirement?


BlogCLA.Elephant

by Gary G. Hoag, Ph.D.

This is one of those “elephant in the room” questions.

Before I try to tackle it in a blog post I want to share three statements that reveal the basis for my thinking:

  1. I will approach this question from a biblical perspective. Should you grapple with my comments, please search the Scriptures for yourselves because it is God, not me, for whom you must prepare to give an account.
  2. My view reflects my personal practice, in other words, I am practicing what I am preaching.
  3. Don’t be surprised if the biblical view appears as countercultural and even contradicts the practice of many Christians. Paul challenged the Roman Christians not to be conformed to the pattern of the thinking of this world, and with this post, I echo his exhortation (Romans 12:1-2).

Saving for retirement is commonly understood as “accumulating financial or other resources to position yourself and your spouse (if married) to stop working at a certain age and to live off the income stream from the assets that you have earned and amassed for yourselves for your remaining days.”

There are three dynamics that emerge in looking at this topic. Interestingly, Scripture speaks to all three.

Accumulation

Jesus instructs us to store up treasures, but we are not to do it on earth (Matthew 6:19-21). In calling us to store up treasure in heaven, Jesus is not trying to bankrupt us, but rather, is teaching us to put our trust in God and function as a community of followers that imitate His generosity through sharing and caring.

 Work

The Apostle Paul states plainly that those who can work must work (2 Thessalonians 3). Why? The fruit of our labor is not to make money for self-preservation (which Jesus depicts as “foolish” in Luke 12:13-21) but rather to have resources for mission, enjoyment, and sharing (Luke 8:1-3 1 Tim 6:17-19; Ephesians 4:28).

 Lifespan

Solomon pointedly states: “no one knows when their hour will come” (Ecclesiastes 9:12). None of us know the number of our days, and money cannot secure our future. David reminds us that riches can’t save us from death, satisfy our deepest longings, or give us the security we long for. Only God can (Psalm 49)!

American responses to these biblical ideas include: “It’s my hard-earned money and I am entitled to it.” Scripture teaches that God owns everything (Psalm 24:1), that He gave us the ability to produce wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18), and that God wants us to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world while caring for the elderly (James 1:27).

Others add: “I don’t want my kids to have to take care of me.”  Think with me about where this declaration leads. We mistakenly mentor the next generation to live selfishly. For if we say it, we inadvertently teach our kids to care only for themselves rather than “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

Some even say with sincerity: “This is all good in faith, Gary, but in practice, who will take care of me if I don’t save for retirement?” This boils down to trust. Are you trusting in yourself or in God to take care of you through your children and the community of others in your local church (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37; 1 Timothy 5:3-16)?

Society says we have a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Many Christians have believed this and settled comfortably into the world rather than obeying the Word as C.S. Lewis contends (God in the Dock, 58-59): “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity. I am certain there must be a patent American article on the market which will suit you far better…” Have we exchanged Christianity for an American article?

So getting back to the question: Should Christians save for retirement? I believe God’s design for us is far better. Let us together:

  1. Stop laying up treasures on earth (James 5:1-3) and store them up in heaven.
  2. Model for our children the selfless posture of taking care of the elderly so that when we can no longer work we will have set the example for them to follow.
  3. Participate in a local church that cares for widows and orphans.

We must not delay in obedience because few are living this way, but rather start today because God is the One to whom someday we will answer and give an account of our stewardship.

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Gary G. Hoag, Ph.D., provides spiritual and strategic counsel for leaders for encouraging Christian generosity. To receive his daily Meditations, visit www.generositymonk.com or email him at gary.hoag@generositymonk.com.

2014.TheChoiceTNBe sure to purchase the CLA 2014 Conference Book of the year,  The Choice: The Christ-Centered Pursuit of Kingdom Outcomes by Gary G. Hoag, R. Scott Rodin, Wesley K. Willmer, visit www.ecfa.org/ECFAPress.aspx or www.amazon.com.

Comments

6 responses to “Should Christians Save for Retirement?”

  1. Laura Lies says:

    Wow, Gary. Let the conversation begin. Challenging teaching. May the Lord work in all our hearts to show us Truth and how we are each to live that out individually and as the Body of Christ.

  2. John says:

    Great article, Gary. And I deeply appreciate that you are living this as well as teaching it. I have a great friend – 68 years old – who is also living in this direction. He plans to work as long (selling commercial roofs) as he can so that he can give as much as he can. He’s told his adult children that there will be no financial inheritance, but he’s leaving them a spiritual legacy that money could never buy. Thanks again for prophetically calling us back to God’s ways!

  3. Steve Cummings says:

    Preach it brother Gary!

  4. RobS says:

    I’ll share my challenges… Proverbs 13:11 suggests gathering money little by little makes it grow. There’s other places in the Bible where saving for some calamity or expected challenge is prudent living (Joseph in Egypt is a great example). As a (rather young) married man, I am saving money one day not knowing about my days on earth, but also making sure that my wife is taken care of (there is insurance as well). What responsibility (as husband) should I take to make sure that my wife has resources to live on in case of my untimely demise?

    Also, is it wrong to accumulate only so that it can be given away?

    I can’t ignore Proverbs 13:22 encouraging me to leave an inheritance (or make some kind of gift) to my children’s children. If someone diligently saves all their life, but doesn’t need the money, what good can come of it? A good example is a couple that lives fine on their pension today, but due to years of diligent savings, they give roughly 25% of their annual income away (mostly to their local church), while also help their grandchildren prepare for college savings.

    Finally, what if, by diligently saving for years, God one day calls me to do something for Him that is only possible because I can live off that savings, forgo an income, or experience something different? I know of a couple that seeks to go to the mission field in their 60s because they have the resources. If they had to continue to work, they might have a lot harder time in engaging in this endeavor and answering God’s calling.

    “What is retirement?” is a big question. If it’s self-absorbing and indulgent life-style, then it’s not glorifying God. For everyone in “retirement” that comes to help at Vacation Bible School (because they’re not working a formal job, they show up), I cannot fault them for not working as they are putting their hands to Kingdom work that’s so much above them.

  5. RobS says:

    Not a Biblical angle, but a recent situation… I spoke with someone today who told me about a charitable organization that earned seven figures this past fiscal year (through their investments and other holdings) and distributed seven figures as well. The impact that financial growth can provide to funding noble causes is truly amazing. Compounded growth of large investments can be far larger than most anyone’s earnings in a given year. I could give away everything I earned last year but still be hundreds of times smaller than the gift that this one organization provided. This organization has been giving away millions for nearly 20 years in a row now — not just one time.

    I don’t know what happened financially with the fish caught in Matthew 5:1-11. Some financial gain was probably realized by someone (or many people were blessed with a big fish lunch). Maybe the fish were sold at market or given away..? But, when Jesus provides big and the blessings flow through Him, Disciples are created in a pretty amazing way.

  6. RobS says:

    I’m realizing there is no discussion but am interested to see if some one comes back one day with additional ideas. The #2 above (“Model for our children the selfless posture of taking care of the elderly so that when we can no longer work we will have set the example for them to follow.”) is also running through my head.

    How many of us model or teach our children things, and then find out they do not live it out the same way we taught it? Teaching is good, but it doesn’t give a lot of certainties that it will be done when we need it at some age. If that did occur, but our children were slow to help (or one does, but others do not), then what kind of relationship breakdown could occur between the children (I know three adult children in the middle of a terrible estate battle, it’d be a miracle to have the relationships mend at this point)

    Finally, we put a lot of burden on children in that position — I know when I lost my job, if I had been financially responsible for my family of five with a lost job, meanwhile a baby on the way, and if I had to take care of other family financially, it would have been amazingly difficult.

    Too many widows live below the poverty line today because they have little to no savings. Encouraging more to put themselves in position to join them doesn’t seem good.

    Today when i work, it cares for me today, but it might care for me in the future as well. Just because my body has a tougher time working at age 80 doesn’t mean I can’t work today to prepare for that real possibility in the future. Is that a sin? I can’t find Biblical condemnation on such a topic.

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