I originally posted this on the other blog, but after some reflection I decided it was a better fit for this one. So, here it is…
The ’08-’09 Winter Catalog from Desiring God arrived this past week, and it’s a unique approach to doing a catalog. Every page has an original work of art on one side and some available resources on the other. The pages are perforated and DGs intention is for us to tear them out and use them in some way. I’m thinking that this post is an appropriate use for this particular piece of art, which strikes a chord deep within me.
Long before I started reading and listening to what John Piper has to say I was not a fan of what Americans (especially) and other nations refer to as “retirement.” In other words, the concept of retirement just didn’t fit with my understanding of God, life, and how everything works – from a biblical perspective. The resource that accompanied this art in the catalog is a 32-page booklet written by Piper called Rethinking Retirement, and it can be downloaded or purchased here.
I’ve met many (more than a few, at least) American Christians (or are they Christians who happen to live in America?) who have argued with me on this issue with a passion. There is much that could be said, but I’ll simply point to the words of Jesus and let him speak to the issue…
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:13-21
Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4
Randy Alcorn has observed that most Americans, most American Christians, and probably most American Christian pastors would have approached these two situations in a complete reversal from Jesus’ approach. We would commend the man with much grain and goods for being a good steward, for being wise, for making good investments and business decisions, and we would say to him, “Enjoy it – you certainly deserve it.” And we would tell the poor widow to keep her money so she could at least pay her rent and utility bills and perhaps buy some food. Certainly don’t give it all away!
The rich man stumbled at the point of thinking that what he had gathered was his, and his alone, to enjoy. All good things come from God, as Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17-19, but he also instructed him on how those good things were to be used for good and for the glory of God. God did not think highly of the rich man’s plans for retirement (and retirement is exactly what those plans were), and he (God) called him on the carpet that very night. In other words, the man died, and, as we all will, was required to appear before God and give an account of his life. That man realized in an instant that all he had worked for and towards was gone like a vapor, and he had wasted his earthly existence storing up that which will not last, cannot satisfy, and will not save his soul.
Well, I could go on, but I think the point has been made. You and I only have one life to live. Don’t waste it.