I believe that we all know the story of the ‘rich fool’ (Luke 12:13-21).
A few weeks ago, I was listening to a sermon podcast by John Piper (Let’s Be Rich Toward God), and I got the most unpleasant feeling in my stomach. He correctly noted that the problem with the rich fool was that he stored up riches for himself and was not rich towards God.
Part of the issue is the man’s approach, attitude, and desire for ‘his’ surplus.
And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”
Modern Day Retirement
Here’s how I’ve always interpreted the modern day Western view of retirement:
You work hard for an extended period until you have enough money saved up so you can stop working and take it easy enjoying hobbies like golf, travel, and visiting family.
No one ever taught me that, but in my early 20′s, that was the impression I had of retirement.
Imagine my deep discomfort when I began to realize that our cultural idea of retirement mirrors the thoughts and attitudes of the rich fool.
He stored up enough so he could eat, drink and be merry.
Self satisfaction. Self indulgence. Self centeredness.
We find ourselves in a dangerous place when we believe we ought to store up wealth to allow a season of taking life easy, eating, drinking, and being merry.
Is this the duty of man? Is this the Christian response to a God who gave everything?
It is not possible that our full barns breed one thing – independence?
God fears our independent attitude. He fears it not for himself (it is not a fear of rejection), but for a deep loving care for us. He knows that our attitude of independence (independence from God) is a destroying attitude. He feared it when the Israelites were preparing to enter the promised land.
10 When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
In Luke 12:30, we are told that the pagan world runs after such things.
What will I eat? What will I wear?
It is pagan to make the focus of our lives ‘such things’. The focus, the desire, and the pursuit of our lives must the be the glory of God. To give him all praise, honor, and glory.
Generosity as a Retirement Plan
I believe that God has a divine scale of justice. I believe that those of us who are Christians must ‘use’ generosity as a part of our own retirement planning.
The generous should be more confident in their retirement with a smaller bank balance than the greedy with a larger bank balance.
Because they have balanced being rich towards God and saving. The story of the rich man seems to indicate it is possible to do both – store up and be rich towards God.
Though the generous may have less in the bank, they have more confidence that even if all that is taken away, God will provide. How can they have such confidence?
- They’ve seen God provide in their times of greatest need.
- They genuinely believe passages like Luke 6:38 that the measure they have offered to others, God will offer to them.
- They know their true retirement is safe – safe in a place where moths and rust cannot destroy.
While saving for retirement, we must be rich towards God. He must always remain our hope. Our confidence is not in pennies and notes. A terrible economic event could wipe that away in a moment. Our hope is in the God who always provides (in his way) for his people. We use our energy for God’s good and not our own indulgence. We give knowing that, by giving, we secure a more stable future than by saving.
The challenge is to do both.
To save for retirement, without putting our hope in that retirement. To save for retirement, while being rich towards God. To save for retirement, knowing the true value of what we have is what we’ve given. We save for retirement so God can use us more fully in his Kingdom – not so we can eat, drink and be merry.
While building your barns, don’t forget to be rich towards God.