Retirement Planning fails for a variety of reasons
There are a number of reasons that ministry, non-profit, and missions personnel have failed to save for retirement. Some sadly report there were never enough funds available. With limited funds, committing cash to provide a retirement income for personnel have sadly often drifted into obscurity among pressing ministry needs and priorities. A significant number individuals have personally neglected making provision for their needs after retirement. Some have done so because they chose to focus solely on current needs; others have chosen to avoid the topic altogether.
Planning is sometimes avoided for spiritual reasons
However, some have made a conscious decision not to save for retirement based upon their interpretation of Scripture. Luke’s account of sending the twelve includes these words of Jesus, “Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.” (Matthew 10:9-10 NIV) Many Godly servants have concluded that this, and other statements of Jesus (e.g. Matthew 5:19-24), teach saving for retirement violates relying upon God.
The case for retirement planning as spiritual stewardship
While such a commitment to rely upon God’s provision is admirable, it does not take all of God’s counsel into consideration. Following Jesus’ Passover meal with the twelve, Jesus recalled the time he sent them out earlier. “When I sent you without a purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?…But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” (Luke 22:35-36) Why the difference? When Jesus sent them out in the beginning of their teaching, it was for a brief and specific period. Now, they were being commissioned to do God’s work following the crucifixion. The principles that Jesus had given them earlier (e.g. reliance upon God, accepting the generosity of others, a laborer is worthy of their pay) were universal, but the specific details of the moment (do not take any money or even a travel bag) were not.
Indeed, saving for retirement may well be understood as a spiritual act of stewardship rather than not relying upon God. All the finances we receive are temporary and come from God. Jesus taught (in Matthew 25) that the good steward wisely handles that which is entrusted to him or her. When considering whether or not to plan for retirement, or how one might plan, trust God for His provision and plan as a wise steward!