One question I get a lot is, “Are you enjoying your retirement?” It is true that just over a decade ago, I retired from being the pastor of Three Lakes Community Bible Church, but then I list what we have been doing since: Kathy and I each teach a Bible study on Thursday mornings during the school year; in addition, I teach a couples’ Bible study on Thursday evening and, of course, do the “Wisdom of the Week” devotional each Monday; I fill in the pulpit on occasion; during the spring I help out with the high school tennis team and I teach tennis lessons in the summer; we supply kindling and campfire wood for a local grocery store, so make many trips to the woods to get a supply which we have to split and bundle; we have a big garden and raise lots to share with others; we have about one and a half acres of lawn to mow; we go for a walk every day. I would say that we still appreciate what it means to “work.”
Many seem to think that work is part of the “curse” and they can’t wait to retire to quit working, but if you go back to Genesis you will see that work became difficult as the result of the “fall” (Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden), but it wasn’t the result of sin. Adam and Eve were placed in the beautiful Garden that God created for them and He told Adam to “cultivate it and keep it” (Gen. 3:15). Work was something wonderful. In fact, it was a reflection of the image of God. Didn’t God work by speaking the word and all of creation came to be? Then every commentary on every day of creation God said that He saw what He had done and “it was good” (Gen. 1:10,12,18,21,25), and on the sixth day, after creating mankind in His image, He said “it was very good!” (v. 31). God is a creative, productive God and we are made in His image. We are created to work, to be productive, to be creative.
Work gives us the opportunity to serve someone else. One of the great traps of our culture is that we’ve been taught that life is about “me” and what I deserve. Unfortunately, that brings a lot of emptiness, hollowness, shallowness, loneliness and misery–no matter how much money we may make. Work becomes satisfying when we do something that we know benefits others. It’s more than getting a paycheck; it should give us a sense of purpose. It is true that work is the ordinary means God uses to supply what we need to live. The Apostle Paul emphasized the central place of work in the life of the believer when he appealed to this general rule: “If anyone will not work, neither let him eat” (II Thes. 3:10). The church has a responsibility to care for those who are unable to provide for themselves or their family (Gal. 2:19; Jas. 1:27; Acts 6:1-6), but the church should also expect its members to live responsibly. While not everyone can work, those who can should. In this way God provides for us and enables us to help those who are genuinely in need.
God designed work to be a part of all that we are and all that we do. But, tipping our hats to Labor Day, it is still true that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”–a workaholic! In fact, it also probably makes Jack an “early-dying” boy! God designed us to work, but he also designed us with the need for rest and relaxation. Remember, even God–though He does not grow weary as we do in our finite bodies–ceased from His work of creation on the seventh day and enjoyed what He had made and used that as a pattern for our work week. Balance is the key word, but I just want to speak up for work on this Labor Day, since it is something that God planned to be a very important expression of ourselves and of who He is and a way to bring Him glory. God gave you an amazingly creative brain, a fantastic human body and gave you strength to learn skills and to get an education. All that came from Him so that what you and I produce in the workplace really is to His credit and to His glory. When you work in your garden or yard or build houses or use your nursing skills to help someone or fix someone’s plumbing or electrical problem, or work on their computer or put parts on an engine in an assembly line, we should do all to glorify God who enabled us to have those skills.
Granted, work in this fallen world can be very trying, stressful, and difficult, but we still have a responsibility to obey Paul’s exhortation: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father…Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col. 3:17, 23,24). And with the empowering of the indwelling Holy Spirit and Christ in us, we can do that (Phil. 4:13). Happy Labor Day!
P.S. The Bible says nothing about retirement!!