Blog - Grasping Vocation

Don't Retire . . . Redeploy

Monday, 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.”

Comments (6)

John Fryters (4/16/2012 3:04:59 PM)
Just recently in Canada, during the 2012 budget announcements, the government decided to move the mandatory retirement age from 65 to 67. This was mainly done for economic reasons. Several European countries have made similar moves and in Europe there was even talk about moving it from 65 to 70. Based on our Biblical knowledge, this might not only benefit the overall economy, but also the general health (mortality rate) of those between 55 and 75, then, in turn again, resulting in major savings in reduced health care costs and increased productivity by the overall population. God is so good.........
Diane (4/16/2012 3:22:00 PM)
We watched the film "Hugo" just last night and the same truth rang loud and clear to us..."if you lose your purpose, it's like you're broken" you need to do what you were meant to do. I watch my mom and see someone reflecting Christ's love, feeding the hungry, caring for widows, visiting shut-ins, calling lonely singles, being a good friend, caring for her husband and family...constantly giving of herself and her resources. She "retired" from her paying job at 54, but she has never remained idle. She has even donated over 26 gallons of blood during her lifetime (in her spare time). I see her purpose: loving, caring and serving people - I may mention to her that on her tomb stone it should read "Redeployed" to love people.
Roger Andersen (4/16/2012 4:45:02 PM)
Hi Larry -

I have followed your articles and read your books over the last decade. I am well acquainted with others in the faith @work movement like Os Hillman, Kent Humphreys, Lance Walnau and others. But your thoughts have uniquely resonated with me. I would love to connect sometime and discuss more. Your passion is mine. A few years ago I wrote a book called The Executive Calling which had pretty good success. Anyway, I'd like to connect if you are interested. Blessings.
Larry Peabody (4/16/2012 6:50:58 PM)
John, yes, it will be interesting to see how the legal changes in the retirement age affect longevity. Thanks for your comment.
Larry Peabody (4/16/2012 6:52:04 PM)
Hi, Diane. I know your mother and your description of her fits perfectly. A good example for all the rest of us!
Larry Peabody (4/16/2012 6:55:22 PM)
Roger, it is good to hear from you. We had met a few years ago at a faith-at-work conference in Irvine, CA. Yes, let's stay in touch.

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