Perhaps you're curious about the title of this blog, Retirement Stewardship. You often hear the word "retirement", and occasionally the word "stewardship", but seldom if ever are they used together. As you will see in this article, which is an excerpt from my free eBook, "15 Principles of Retirement Stewardship", they actually go together pretty well.
To define retirement stewardship, we need to first understand the basic concept of stewardship as an overarching Biblical principle that should guide our thinking, decisions, and actions. By definition, it simply means to care for that which has been entrusted to you by another. For the Christian, the "other" in this case is God Himself.
Often, when the topic of stewardship comes up, our thoughts immediately go to what we should give to God in tithes and offerings. But stewardship is much more than that.
All too often we regard stewardship simply as a matter of our giving to God, but this aspect is secondary. Before we can give, we must possess, and before we possess we must receive. Therefore, stewardship is, in the first place, receiving God's good and bounteous gifts. And once received, those gifts are not to be used solely for our own good. They must also be used for the benefit of others, and ultimately for the glory of God the giver. The steward needs an open hand to receive from God and then an active hand to give to God and to others. (Murray J. Harris, Professor. of N.T., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)
The basic message in the Bible is that good stewards use the things God has given wisely and endeavor to do good with them throughout their lives. The concept of stewardship is based on a simple Biblical premise: God owns it all! Everything we see, everything we have, and everything we are – God created it all, and it all belongs to him.
The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof. Psalm 24:1 (ESV)
'The silver is mine and the gold is mine,' declares the Lord of hosts. Haggai 2:8 (ESV)
Since everything we have is God's, we are just stewards of what we've been given, and we are commanded to be faithful in our stewardship.
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 (ESV)
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace… I Peter 4:10 (ESV)
While these scriptures may mainly be talking about the Gospel or spiritual gifts, what we have been given by God certainly includes our treasure. And it also includes the different talents, abilities, and skills we have been given; in other words, our uniquely created personalities as well as our material possessions. Therefore, we are to be whole-life stewards of our:
- Time—"redeeming the time for the days are evil".
- Talent—stewards of the gifts God has given us.
- Testimony—stewards of the grace of God.
- Treasure—managing our resources well.
I like the way Dave Ramsey describes stewardship: "Handling God's blessings God's way for His glory." This implies that stewardship involves more than how we handle the financial and material resources God has given us. It's not about following a set of "money rules", but instead serving God and stewarding what he has given us as part of our worship of Him. Our very lives are a gift from God, along with His great plan of forgiveness and redemption through His Son Jesus Christ. This is true whether we are just graduating from college, plan to retire tomorrow, or have been retired for many years.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 2 Cor. 8:9 (ESV)
So, we must keep in mind that the important message of biblical Stewardship is holistic, meaning that it includes every area of our lives. In addition to our money, we also need to acknowledge God's ownership over things like our work, our health, and our family relationships. Everything belongs to him, and we have a responsibility to use them according to His instructions.
Retirement stewardship is mainly concerned with how we steward God's gifts to us in the years leading up to retirement, and also while living in retirement. Conscientious retirement stewardship actually begins much earlier in our lives than retirement itself. It begins with our choices and actions as soon as we have our first payday.
This is a subject of utmost importance to Christians. I recently read a quote on a popular Christian Personal Finance Blog by a Certified Financial Planner who gave his perspective on this based on his real-life experience working with Christian clients:
I've had to look at this closely in my life, especially since I'm a financial planner. Most of my job revolves around helping people plan for their retirement. Some are Christians and some are not, but almost all of them have the American ideal of retirement ingrained in their minds. Out of the 200+ clients I have worked with, I can only think of 1 or 2 that are really focused on using their retirement years in a way that glorifies God. I know other people in my life who have done this, but from a business perspective I just don't see it much. Paul Williams, CFP
Somewhat disconcerting, wouldn't you say? It certainly indicates the need for a more Biblically-informed, God-honoring perspective on this whole subject of retirement – and that perspective is retirement stewardship.
This is a mouthful, but I will define retirement stewardship as follows:
"Retirement stewardship is managing all that God has generously given you – your time, talents, and treasure – by saving diligently, investing wisely, giving generously, and living abundantly; for your joy, the good of others, and God's honor and glory, as you plan for, and/or live in, retirement."