Not a time to collect sea shells


In our read-through-the-Bible passage for today, we read in Numbers 8

    And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “This applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall come to do duty in the service of the tent of meeting. And from the age of fifty years they shall withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more. They minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but they shall do no service. Thus shall you do to the Levites in assigning their duties.” (Numbers 8:23-26 ESV)

This is perhaps the only place in the Bible that mentions retirement.  It applies specifically to the Levites, God’s chosen spiritual leaders of the Israelites. It is interesting to note that at age 50 they were to stop their duty of service, and instead assist their younger brothers.   Rather than “working”, they would help the “non-retired guys.”

Can we learn from this? Retirement is a time to step up and get involved in ministry, not a time to collect sea shells. John Piper said:

Consider a story from the February 1998 edition of Reader’s Digest, which tells about a couple who “took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30 foot trawler, play softball and collect shells.” At first, when I read it I thought it might be a joke. A spoof on the American Dream. But it wasn’t. Tragically, this was the dream: Come to the end of your life—your one and only precious, God-given life—and let the last great work of your life, before you give an account to your Creator, be this: playing softball and collecting shells. Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: “Look, Lord. See my shells.” That is a tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. Over against that, I put my protest: Don’t buy it. Don’t waste your life. (Don’t Waste Your Life, 45-46)

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