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One of the most common questions we get asked is: is retirement in the Bible?
Let’s look at this question in more detail to find the answer. Hopefully, by the time you reach the end of the post, you’ll agree that retirement is in the Bible.
And you’ll learn more about the financial state of pastors in the United States.
But first, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what retirement is (and isn’t.)
What Is Retirement?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, retirement is “the state of being retired, withdrawal from one’s position or occupation or from active working life.”
In other words, when you retire, you stop working vocationally. Instead of getting a paycheck for a job well done, you typically live on your investments, social security, and perhaps a pension.
However, retirement doesn’t mean you stop being productive, sit back, and eat bonbons all day. Many people continue to contribute to their families and community in meaningful ways after they retire.
For born-again believers, retirement doesn’t mean you hang up your “Christian” hat and cease living out your faith. On the contrary, retirement can be a time to live out our passions and serve God in a new way.
What Does the Bible Say About Retirement?
While the word retirement isn’t in the Bible (it’s a relatively modern term), the concept of stepping down from full-time ministerial service certainly is. Let’s look at the book of Numbers:
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, This is it that belongeth unto the Levites: from twenty and five years old and upward they shall go in to wait upon the service of the tabernacle of the congregation: and from the age of fifty years they shall cease waiting upon the service thereof, and shall serve no more: but shall minister with their brethren in the tabernacle of the congregation, to keep the charge, and shall do no service. Thus shalt thou do unto the Levites touching their charge.Numbers 8:23-26
In other words, God told the Levites to work in the Tabernacle vocationally for 25 years, from when they were 25 until they turned 50.
Once they turned 50, they were to “cease waiting upon the service thereof,” retiring from their official role.
However, God wasn’t finished with them yet. Even after their 50th birthday, God asked them to minister with their brethren in the Tabernacle and to keep the charge.
In other words, retirement was a time of transition from one type of service to another.
History of Modern Retirement
Retirement in the US, as we know it today, began in the 1880s with pension plans established by the American Express Company, utilities, banking, and companies in other industries. Then, social security was introduced in 1935 as a safety net for those who could no longer work.
Today, retirement means the end of a career and the beginning of a life phase known as the golden years. Many view retirement as a time to relax, travel, and pursue hobbies.
Most people in secular jobs start planning for their retirement at a young age. They invest, save, and create a financial plan to help them live comfortably after their working years.
However, despite retirement being expected in the secular world, many people seem to think that pastors and missionaries should serve vocationally until God calls them home to glory.
And if many people think that pastors and missionaries should never retire, it explains a bit about the financial state of these Christian servants.
Retirement for Pastors and Missionaries
Let’s look at some sobering statistics from the Pastoral Care, Inc. website:
- 57% of pastors are unable to pay their bills
- 53% of pastors are concerned about their family’s future financial security
In addition, an article in The Christian Post shared that,
“More than one-third of retirement-age pastors and missionaries have less than $100,000 in their retirement savings as nearly one-half of them are concerned about their family’s financial future, according to new data published by LifeWay Research.”Samuel Smith, Deputy Managing Editor The Christian Post
A 2015 Gray Matter Research & Consulting study found that nine out of ten full-time pastors have income from other sources, 31% of whom work a second job themselves. Other studies have these numbers even higher. This study also showed that one out of five pastors have zero dollars saved for retirement, with 62% of churches not offering any retirement plan.
When you add the lack of equity from pastors who live in a parsonage or missionaries who rent for their entire time of service and the fact that the average Baptist pastor makes $52,728 a year, it paints a reality that retirement is hard for pastors.
While it would be easy to start pointing fingers at who is to blame, we should first recognize that there is a problem. The average churchgoer works hard to prepare for retirement, yet too many of our spiritual leaders are forgotten.
It becomes easy to see why many pastors believe they’ll “preach until they die.”
What Is the Solution?
While the goal of this article is not to provide the solution to this problem, I hope we can all agree it is a problem that needs addressing – preferably by each individual local church.
In the meantime, Missionary Acres was founded to help address this exact concern. We recognize that not every missionary, pastor, or career Christian worker is prepared for their golden years.
Our very purpose statement says:
Missionary Acres exists for the purpose of providing affordable, quality housing in a safe, peaceful, family-oriented environment for faithful servants of Jesus Christ who have served in full-time occupational service with ministries of like faith and practice as BMM.
What does that mean?
It means we do everything we can to provide high-quality housing at the lowest cost possible for the folks who dedicated their lives to serving God full-time.
Maybe they were a small church pastor, or perhaps they traveled overseas and planted churches in faraway lands. Some might have stayed local and served as teachers, preparing the next generation of leaders who are even now still going out and serving God in full-time ministry work.
When people give up everything to go and serve the Lord, they sometimes relinquish the ability to retire comfortably. And while many would like to preach until they die, that is not usually feasible. (Nor should it be…since retirement is in the Bible.)
Our Call to Action Since Retirement Is in the Bible
The Bible says:
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.1 Timothy 5:17–18
Although the folks who call Missionary Acres home would never say this about themselves, we view them as the modern-day heroes of the faith. They went out, sometimes to hostile locations, and served the Lord faithfully for years. They labored, and we believe that now they are worthy of the reward of retirement – among other things.
This does not mean the folk here have given up serving God, far from it.
Everyone who call Missionary Acres home took the charge of Romans 12 to heart. The Bible says in verse 3 “…not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think…”
And they don’t.
But it also says in verse 1, “that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service…”
Our residents are still doing this daily. The vast majority of them are still active in local churches. We have deacons, Sunday School teachers, volunteers for pulpit supply, folks helping with church maintenance, piano players, song leaders, and college instructors.
Just like those verses in Numbers 8 stated, there comes a time when we cannot continue serving vocationally, but that doesn’t mean we stop serving God altogether. It is a changing of seasons in one’s life.
Is Retirement in the Bible?
So what do you think? Is retirement in the Bible?
Yes, it absolutely is.
And it is an exciting time — a time to serve God in a new capacity. Our pastors, missionaries, and other full-time Christian Workers should be able to enjoy this time of their life, just like everyone else in the pew on Sunday hopes to one day be able to do.
And Missionary Acres is here to help them do just that.
If you’d like to learn more about Missionary Acres, we’d love to schedule a meeting with you and present this ministry. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.