Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Who says retirement is not a biblical concept?

Contrary to what you may read elsewhere, retirement is most certainly a biblical concept:

"The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: This applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall begin to do duty in the service of the tent of meeting; and from the age of fifty years they shall retire from the duty of the service and serve no more. They may assist their brothers in the tent of meeting in carrying out their duties, but they shall perform no service. Thus you shall do with the Levites in assigning their duties." (Num. 8:23-26). 

In addition, Numbers 4 speaks repeatedly of the period of enrollment for service of the Kohathites, the Gershonites, and the Merarites as ending at the age of fifty (see 4:1-3, 21-23, 29-30, 34-36, 38-40, 42-44, 46-48).

(By the way, in my forthcoming book, Year D: A Quadrennial Supplement to the Revised Common Lectionary, I suggest that we should consider requiring teaching elders to pass Bible Content exams on an ongoing basis, say, every five years, to maintain their ordained status.)

The problem at present is that the state is structured and "funded" (so to speak) to allow civil servants to retire with full benefits at the age of fifty, but churches and synagogues are not. Perhaps this should be taken in to account when we interpret, "Render unto Caesar the things that belong to Caesar and to God the things that belong to God" (Matt 22:21). Surely giving to God what belongs to God ought to include caring for elders who have spent their working days in the service of God.

I know it's still Easter, but maybe its worth putting in a word for the Christmas Joy Offering. I'm pretty sure they'll accept gifts at anytime.

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