Blog - Grasping Vocation
Don't Retire . . . RedeployMonday, April 16, 2012
In recent conversation, a medical doctor mentioned how often he has seen those who retire die shortly afterward. His comment was in line with a Shell Oil company study which found that people retiring early at 55 experienced twice the death rate of those who retired at 60. Why? Many factors probably explain this, but one of them may well be the loss of purpose.
In the movie named after him, the young Hugo shows Isabelle a broken automaton his father had tried to restore before his death. Looking down through the clockworks into the train station, they see the elderly Monsieur LaBisse, owner of a book shop, still at work.
Hugo: Monsieur LaBisse gave me a book the other night.
Isabelle: He’s always doing that. Sending books to a good home, that’s what he calls it.
Hugo: He’s got raison . . . purpose.
Isabelle: What do you mean?
Hugo: Everything has a purpose, even machines. Clocks tell time. Trains take you places. They do what they’re meant to do.
Isabelle: Like Monsieur LaBisse.
Hugo: Maybe that’s why broken machines make me so sad. They can’t do what they’re meant to do. Maybe it’s the same with people. If you lose your purpose, it’s like you’re broken.
Although life consists of much more, working makes up one of its main purposes. Each of us is made in the image of the God, who first reveals himself as a worker (see Genesis 1 and 2). Just as God worked six days and rested one, we—created in his likeness—are to follow his pattern. In the New Testament, Christians were instructed to avoid those who would not work. Idlers even lost their eating rights (II Thess. 3:6, 10).
The NIV translation includes the word "retire” just once (Num. 8:25). At age 50, Levites were to cease their regular tabernacle duties. This did not mean doing nothing, however, because they were permitted to help others in their work. There is no biblical text that speaks about "retirement” in the way we use the term today.
We all eventually reach the age where we can’t keep up the pace we did in younger years. As a Christian, instead of "retirement,” I prefer borrowing the military word "redeployment.” God made each of us with a built-in need to contribute, to work for the good of others. We can do without receiving paychecks, but we cannot do without having a purpose. Because, in Hugo’s words, "If you lose your purpose, it’s like you’re broken.”