Monday, September 15, 2008

Godly Retirement

by Al Boyce

Two dozen newly hired employees of a large financial institution gathered in a conference room for three days of orientation. A good part of the first day was devoted to taking full advantage of the company's 401K plan. The entire last day was devoted to IRAs and other retirement plans.

Repeatedly, speakers warned that Social Security would soon be a thing of the past; that we must work to assure our own solvency when we retire. One woman estimated each of us would need $500,000 in retirement savings accounts in order to retire "comfortably." Another suggested putting away every spare penny to protect against the ravages of inflation.

With the best of intentions, this company was systematically instilling in its employees the desire -- no, the NEED -- to look out for themselves, to hoard their money, to define their "comfortable" retirement years by how lavishly they would be able to live. Vacation homes were a given.

Is it any wonder that Americans struggle to tithe, or to serve others, or even to reduce their own worldly appetites when we are surrounded by trusted advisors who lecture us about materialism as if it were the ultimate virtue?

Contrast that with Christ's admonition that we give freely to others; that we are to live simply and hold our material possessions with open hands.

His "investment" advice was this:

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."(Matthew 6:19-21)

I know a man who is in his mid-40s. He lives in an unheated trailer behind someone else's house. When he can't get day labor jobs, he panhandles. Sometimes he gets food from dumpsters behind grocery stores.

This man also volunteers four hours a day at a warehouse that provides food, clothing and other necessities to the homeless, to migrant workers, to displaced families. He refuses to take anything from the warehouse for himself because he wants to "give back" what he has received from others.

One gift he has received has been the support and friendship to help him stay sober for nearly six months.

This man has no IRA, no pension fund, no 401K, no savings account. He is looking for a steady job, but with poor reading skills, hearing difficulties and a spotty employment history, his prospects are not good.

Still, he reaches out to his brothers and sisters on the street; those who can't shake their own substance abuse. He doesn't counsel them on how to save up money, get a job or prepare for retirement. He encourages them to embrace Jesus as their Lord and Savior; to relinquish their grim hold on things of this earth and to recognize the joy of living by God's grace.

In this way, he contributes to the ultimate 401K. There are no contribution limits. You are never too old to start paying in. Your assets are controlled by someone with a proven track record.

One more thing: God provides an infinite match, which is a good thing, since your life expectancy will be off the charts.

Al Boyce is a former writer and reporter for The Associated Press. He lives in Raleigh, NC, where he now writes for God.

Article Source: WRITERS

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