Contact Info Subscribe Links




what does the bible say about retirement?

by D. Ray Lewis, general director
Board of Retirement

ALTHOUGH WE DO NOT FIND A SPECIFIC BIBLICAL PRINCIPLE that instructs a person to retire from work after reaching a certain age, we do find an example of retirement commanded for the Levites.

“This is it that belongeth unto the Levites: from twenty and five years old and upward they shall go in to wait upon the service of the tabernacle of the congregation: And from the age of fifty years they shall cease waiting upon the service thereof, and shall serve no more: But shall minister with their brethren in the tabernacle of the congregation, to keep the charge, and shall do no service. Thus shalt thou do unto the Levites touching their charge.” (Numbers 8:24-26)

The phrase “shall serve no more” could be translated, “They must retire.” Isn’t it interesting that the only example of retirement in Scripture relates to those God has called upon to care for His work? As a rule, however, people in the Bible worked as long as they were able.

  • John the Apostle served and wrote into his 90's.

  • Moses didn't even start his most important work until age 80, and he continued working until he died at age 120.

  • In Titus 2, Paul instructed the older men and women to teach younger people how to behave through their example.

 So why did God command the Levites to retire at age 50? The reason was probably more practical than theological. Moving the tabernacle and its furniture through the desert required strength, and younger men were more suited for lifting and carrying the heavy articles.

However, “retired” Levites did not stop working. They assisted with various light duties in the tabernacle. In his commentary on Numbers, Adam Clark states, “they were no longer obligated to perform any laborious service, but were to act as general directors and counselors. This helped the younger men assume more responsibilities, and it allowed the older men to be in a position to advise and counsel them.”

So, when we talk about pastors retiring, we do not mean they should stop all Christian service. We do not suggest a “magical” age (like 65) when the pastor steps down from the pulpit and never enters it again. Often ministers serve into their late 70s or even longer. Not everyone can do that. That is why we want to help people prepare for the point in their lives when they must slow down and, like the Levites, serve in less strenuous positions with enough income to retire with dignity.

We may retire from our full-time Christian ministry, and the way we serve God may change, but we can still serve. (Be sure to read “How to Thrive at 95 on page 7 of this magazine.)

The Old Testament story of Joseph provides a good strategy of planning for retirement years. Joseph knew Egypt would enjoy seven years of good harvest before experiencing seven years of drought. He set aside a significant amount of grain during the good years to ensure provisions during the bad years.

The story illustrates the reality of our lives. Our productive years are followed by years when economic productivity is reduced or ceases entirely. Therefore, it is necessary to manage the money we’ve acquired in our income-producing years wisely, so we will have sufficient finances to carry out the Lord’s plan for our retirement. Like Joseph, we must set aside the “grain” now for a bountiful and productive retirement later.

The Board of Retirement is ready to help you prepare for one of the most exciting periods of your life. Give us a call toll-free at (877) 767-7738 or (615) 760-6147.

D. Ray Lewis became general director of the Board of Retirement and Insurance in August 2005. He and his wife Ida live in Antioch, TN. You can contact Ray at the numbers above or email:







©2005 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists