“They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green . . .” – Psalm 92:14
If you were anything like me starting off in life you probably had this wild dream in the back of your mind that “if I can ever achieve enough financial success in life to have all the things I want, plus enough set aside so that I don’t have to break my back to make ends meet, I will have achieved the American dream.” (Thankfully, some of you pursued a higher calling than me.) Again, if you were like me the possibility of that ever happening was so remote that it was – well, just pure fantasy. Looking back on that now, though, I realize how foolish I was; for I did eventually wake up one day and realize that achieving financial success is not necessarily all it’s cracked up to be.
In one of his many brilliant and convicting parables, Jesus tells of a rich man whose land produces an abundant harvest, enough so that the man decides he should build bigger barns in which to store his surplus grain, after which he plans to kick back and enjoy life for many years; “eat, drink and be merry,” he says (Luke 12:13-21). At one time I would have agreed with the man.
I’m curious how the concept of retirement became so prevalent in our society, to the extent of almost being an entitlement. Some speculate it was the establishment of Social Security, which as the average life-expectancy continues to increase, has evolved from being a stopgap for the aged as it was first intended, to becoming a long-term pension for the masses. Others credit the decades of post-World War II prosperity that led to the growth of corporate pension plans and the ability to accumulate wealth through 401k plans and the like. We all expect it though, don’t we, myself included. Plus, we fear the warnings from the financial services industry (my old stomping ground) that if we fail to save enough for the “golden years” and invest it wisely our goose will surely be cooked.
Of course it’s wise that we should strive to attain adequate financial resources in order to provide for ourselves and our families in the future in case our ability to earn diminishes. But more importantly, it frees us to use our time, treasure and energy for the benefit of others, and for the advancement of God’s Kingdom. And if we can possibly do so, don’t we all have this wild dream in the back of our minds to live out our days like the Psalmist says? “They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.”