Listen to “More” by Fred Smith
Periodically, I think about full retirement and what that might mean. I asked one friend about it, and his response was, “Retire from what? You have the job that everyone would like to find when they retire.” He was right but I still think I’d like to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You can quit now.”
Fortunately, that is not God’s plan for my life. I came to realize this in a couple of ways.
First, I read the Genesis account of creation again and saw it in a new way. Man was not created as the pinnacle. His work was not meant for his own fulfillment. Rather, God created the world and then wanted someone to be, essentially, the “yardman” who would be responsible for what had been made before him.
I have always read that passage to mean God was, in a way, building up to the ultimate creation – the making of man and woman. However, I think it may be more likely He had a garden that needed tending…so he crafted his own help.
God formed a beautiful world but then needed a creature unlike any of the others to manage and make the most of it. In return, they could enjoy the fruits of the world but it was not theirs to own. They were made not as the pinnacle of creation but as stewards of His creation and responsible for it.
This means we have been designed to be God’s employees, his servants, his yard men. We don’t like that, do we? It doesn’t quite fit with the way we would prefer to read the story – that God created the world for our benefit and to do with as we please. There are benefits but we were saved for last because God wanted caretakers – not royalty.
What Life Expects
Second, when I read the parable of the minas in Luke 19 I understand that the faithful servant received not only more wealth but even additional responsibility. It was not, “Well done and now you are rich enough to retire” but, “Well done and now I have more responsibility for you.” In other words, the reward is responsibility. The more you accomplish the more responsibility you will have. I am not giving you a pension. I am making you a manager of even more. I am not making you a benefactor but a more responsible servant.
What Viktor Frankl learned in the Nazi death camps has turned around many minds – mine included: “We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life–daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”
I think about these things more now. Even after a lifetime of hearing the way to wisdom is the path of a servant, I still desire to choose my own place and my own definition of serving. I want to be a volunteer – not an employee. I want to be special – the pinnacle – not a yardman. I want to offer my time and talents – but not have them controlled by someone else. I want to have less responsibility as a reward for service – not more. I want less stress and more privileges. I would rather have fewer cities than more. But that’s not how God prepares us for eternity, is it? He never stops rewarding us with more. He never stops preparing us for what is next. As much as we might hope, there is nothing in Scripture about His giving us responsibility for 70 years and then rest. The nature of the responsibility changes but it never goes away.
Some of you reading this are in similar circumstances and need to think about what life is still expecting of you. What has God prepared you for now? Where has God placed you and what responsibilities has He given you at this stage of your life?
We may not be like Caleb and as strong as we were 45 years ago, but we have assets, skills and experiences that are even more valuable for the benefit of the place in which we have been planted. How do we use them? How do we continue to serve and move toward wisdom? How do we fulfill the role we have been given by God to work the plot of ground we’ve been assigned?
Art by Sangpal Chawhan