Now and again one hears people quoting things that are allegedly in the Bible but are actually not and which they allow to shape their attitude to life. Perhaps the most notorious ‘not in the Bible’ alleged quote is “God helps those who help themselves”. In actual fact what the Bible teaches is the very opposite, which is that God’s desire is to help those who cannot help themselves. In affairs of the world God’s favour is especially turned towards those in various kinds of bondage – the poor, marginalised, outcasts, beggars, oppressed, exploited, enslaved etc and he actually expects us to use our resources to help those who can’t help themselves. Of course in the spiritual realm and with eternal consequences God helped us when we were ‘powerless’ (Romans 5:6) to free ourselves from our bondage to sin, by setting us free through the death of Christ.
There is however another non-Biblical concept that Christians often allow to shape their decision-making and that is contained by the word ‘Retirement’. This came to my mind when reading an article recently about a Christian man, very famous and who was, in what you might call his working life, very powerful. This man has recently been diagnosed with melanoma – originating tumours in his brain.
He is the founder and key player in an organisation committed to eradicating various tropical diseases and after he was diagnosed with cancer he is quoted as saying that “he felt his life’s work was still not done.” An active Christian engaged in a range of ministries he says he plans to keep on teaching Sunday school at his church.
This man is 91 years old and his name is Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States. The word ‘Retirement’ is not in the Bible, it is not in Jimmy Carter’s vocabulary nor should it be in ours. Yes we may ‘Retire’ from paid work, but from serving God never. In actual fact the need to no longer spend time in paid employment frees time for more direct ministry activities. Mind you there is certainly a point at which we should ‘Retire’, and that will be when we walk through the ‘Pearly Gates’ and hear those beautiful words
“Well done, good and faithful servant”.