Grandpa Solomon’s Retirement Advice

Have you ever asked yourself what Solomon, son of David, king of Israel, and author of much Biblical wisdom, would have to say about modern retirement?  Probably not, but I’m going to write about it anyway, because Solomon actually had some relevant advice.

Since this blog is not a source of income, I have a day job which happens to involve helping companies help their employees save and invest for retirement.  In American culture, retirement has in some ways replaced heaven as the future we hope for.  Advertisements promise retirees can do all the things they dreamed of doing during their working years.  Travel.  Relax.  Read those books you’ve been putting off reading.  If you can, buy a yacht.  After all, if you’ve worked so hard for it, you deserve it, they say.  Like many marketing schemes, something good and prudent (saving for retirement) is wrapped in a lot of gloss to get you to do something you might not do otherwise.  Sacrifices made now are worthwhile because of a later reward.

A guest at church this morning inspired me to write this post, since he was working with a ministry to grandparents.  The ministry is called Legacy Coalition (website link).  While talking with him, I made a connection and wanted to share it here.  That connection is that Solomon[1] when writing Ecclesiastes was acting in the role of a wise, Godly grandfather in a way that offers a sharp contrast to the story of retirement that goes unchallenged in our culture.

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon lays out an argument that he lived almost the exact life pictured in our retirement ads but learned to regret it.  While still a very young man, he had the power and wealth to try anything he wanted.  He planted vineyards and drank a lot of wine.  He built gardens and pools and acquired many servants and property.  He also had 700 wives and 300 concubines.[2]  He could have everything he desired – everything the retirement ads would show you if they could be R-rated – but he ended up disappointed.  Ecclesiastes is his advice to those who come after to not repeat his mistakes.

While a blog post can’t cover all of Ecclesiastes, I must add that Solomon did encourage us to invest for the future, but also not to place all our bets on one specific vision of the future: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.  Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.”  (Ecclesiastes 11:1-2).  A long, healthy and prosperous retirement is one possible future among many, but eternity with God is a future certainty.  Earlier in the book, Solomon writes: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)  God gives us a sense of what He has planned for us, but not many of the details.  We should not foolishly ignore the future, but we should not cling to one future we desire at the cost of the present God has given us and the future He already knows everything about.

Solomon encourages everyone – young and old – to live more in their own moment, enjoying the gifts God has given them and sharing those gifts with the people around them.  While Solomon is encouraging the young to not repeat his own mistakes, he is also encouraging the old to share their perspective.  In both cases, Solomon is telling us not to stress too much about what may or may not happen, but to invest what we have in light of what will be meaningful in eternity.  Joy comes from enjoying the relationships and things God has blessed us with now, not from sacrificing the now in light of a false vision of retirement.

Solomon recommends joy in God’s provision, and so I close with this quote, and pray that we all experience joy and thankfulness in the gifts God has given us today.  Don’t keep them to yourself.

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.  Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.  Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.” – Ecclesiastes 9:7-10

[1] I’m going to proceed for the sake of argument that Solomon is the author of Ecclesiastes, although I know some debate that and it’s not explicitly stated.
[2] 1 Kings 11:3

Do You Do Well to Be Angry?

The prophet Jonah was angry after God’s grace came to the Gentile city of Nineveh, when they repented and avoided disaster:
“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, ‘O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’ And the LORD said, ‘Do you do well to be angry?’” – Jonah 4:1-4

Jonah claimed to know God’s character, but also wanted to determine who else could know God and who couldn’t, who gets “justice” and who doesn’t, preventing him from rejoicing in the salvation of Nineveh.

Do we do well to be angry, or do we prefer joy in knowing the God who is sovereign knows what He’s doing? Be glad in the salvation of God, even if He gives it to someone you don’t think deserves it. He knows better.

Shall the Trees Clap Their Hands?

Psalm 55:12-13
“For you shall go out in joy
            and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
            shall break forth into singing,
            and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
            instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the LORD,
            an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Fellow travelers,

Today may bring thorns and briers, but as we travel toward eternity, consider the marvelous picture of nature glorified in a new heaven and earth in this Psalm.

First, the mountains and trees we experience in this world may not be the same as trees in heaven.  They will rejoice when the perfect creation is made manifest because they are not fully what they should be now.  Tolkien may have been thinking of this when creating the Ents of Middle Earth.  If the trees are described as clapping in heaven, what will people do?

Bring some of that joy to this earth.

Second, the Psalm describes a direct reversal of the curse on Adam in Gen 3:17-18, where the ground would be cursed and “thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you.”  Instead, the cypress and myrtle will come up.  The new creation will not fight against us, but instead sprout glory after glory.

Bring some of that glory to this earth.

Have a Satisfying Thanksgiving!

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,

for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever”
– Psalm 136:1-3

Thanksgiving only makes sense if someone exists to thank, who is good, and has the power to provide what we are thankful for. Fortunately all of those things are true!

Thanksgiving also has more meaning when focused on what is lasting, trustworthy and satisfying:

“There is much in life that is not satisfying. We may be satisfied for a time.  But the pleasures soon pale and satisfaction fades. When we are young and life lies before us, the offerings of the world are not bad, it seems. There is an appeal to fame or wealth or companionship. The hunger of the imagination paints our goals in bright colors. We live on dreams. But what happens when the future doesn’t bring what we ask for? What happens in the face of suffering, death, or sorrow?  What happens in old age? If there is nothing more to life than the things that time takes from us, life becomes misery. On the other hand, if we are united to the living Lord Jesus Christ, who has gone before to prepare for us a place in his presence, then life retains its meaning and is filled with joy.” – November 24 entry from a James Montgomery Boice devotional “Come to the Waters” compiled by D. Marion Clark.

Thanksgiving is Good and Fitting

“Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.” – Ecclesiastes 5:18-19

This Thanksgiving will be different for many people.  The company around the table may be different.  The meal may be different.  The familiarity of tradition may have been shaken.  The means of providing the meal may be different.  The pandemic has changed priorities for many people, in addition to its direct impacts.  Many are viewing their daily toil differently. Some are less satisfied with their jobs, some have retired, some have quit for something different, some have few attractive options. Much has changed.

As the Preacher says in the verses above, even those with jobs and possessions find it difficult to truly enjoy them.  It is “good and fitting”, but it is also “the gift of God” to find joy in the now instead of chasing something we don’t already have. It does not come naturally.

Therefore, focus on the Giver behind the gifts you have, and seek contentment with thankfulness that He has provided everything you need.  Now and in eternity.  You are in good company.

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