(Caleb speaking) "Now, as you can see, the Lord has kept me alive and well as he promised for all these forty-five years since Moses made this promise—even while Israel wandered in the wilderness. Today I am eighty-five years old. I am as strong now as I was when Moses sent me on that journey, and I can still travel and fight as well as I could then. So give me the hill country that the Lord promised me. You will remember that as scouts we found the descendants of Anak living there in great, walled towns. But if the Lord is with me, I will drive them out of the land, just as the Lord said."
He said to himself, "What should I do? I don't have room for all my crops." Then he said, "I know! I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I'll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I'll sit back and say to myself, 'My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!'" (Joshua 14:10-12; Luke 12:17-19, NLT)
Once upon a time in America, men would work for a single company for thirty, forty, or even fifty years. When they had accomplished this feat of loyalty and were ready to retire, their employers would give them a token of appreciation for their years of service. Often, as portrayed in movies or books, the man would receive a gold watch. It was a symbol of a job well done, a life well lived in service to a company.
Today, we are encouraged to move around often (I've had more employers than can easily fit on a two-page resume anymore) and gain experience. We are also told to put aside for our future, to "build wealth" that we can use for our "golden years" (a throwback phrase to that gold watch). And, while there is nothing wrong with that goal ... we certainly should take care of our families and ourselves rather than rely on the government or some other social service ... I have to believe the idea of actually retiring is a little more modern in nature. And, if you take it to mean ceasing to work, then it certainly doesn't have a foundation in any Biblical principles I've run across.
Take a look again at the passages I've cited above. Caleb is a unique example of a man who approached his life with a zeal most of us can only dream about. As my own pastor reached this story last week, I glanced across at the other versions I had available and my eyes settled on the New Living Translation's rendering of Caleb's words. I laughed as I read it because it makes it sound like that particular day was Caleb's eighty-fifth birthday ... and what a present he asked for. My thoughts immediately ran to the idea of not asking for a gold watch (i.e. retirement), but asking instead for a challenge.
Caleb wasn't looking for a rest, though he was by far the most senior member of the Israelite coalition. Instead, he showed a determination to follow God with his whole heart - a principle that had guided his life since we first met him some forty-five years earlier. Everything else he does is a sub-point to his desire to follow God.
Then my thoughts circled back around to someone else I had been thinking about for some time. The arrogant farmer from the story in Luke. He is obviously prosperous and there is nothing wrong with that at all. He has taken an assessment of his business operations and determined that he needs to expand in order to accommodate all he has coming in. Again, there isn't anything wrong with doing this. In fact, I'd argue it is prudent to make such provision so things don't go to waste. But just when you might find yourself agreeing with this man, he goes a step beyond ...
"Wow, self! You've done extremely well. You deserve to sit back and do nothing but party for the rest of your days. You now reside on 'Easy Street'." His abundance has bred arrogance, which has lead to complacency, which matures into full-blown contempt. He now regards himself as the be-all-and-end-all for himself and feels he has no need and, probably, no further obligation. And, in the rest of that story, God calls him out as the fool he truly is and requires from him the one thing he cannot safeguard with his wealth. His eternal soul is lost and his fortune left behind.
Bringing this back around to myself, I began to think about my own tendency to be complacent. Even though I've been through an extended period of uncertainty, I've not been in dire straits by anyone's definition. But still, the challenge to be more like Caleb than the farmer rings true for me. As I travel the Crooked Path, with its ups and downs, twists and turns, I need to remember Who I am following and that He has a purpose for me. And, while I do need to prudently plan for today and tomorrow, I should never think about asking God for a "gold watch". It's a much better position to ask Him for the next challenge He has in store for me.
- What's your vision for your future? Are you looking for a time when you can sit back and relax a bit?
- How does the response of Caleb strike you? In contrast, do you see anything of yourself in the farmer?
- So, what do you believe God thinks about the whole matter? Does He expect you to ask for a "gold watch" or for the next challenge? And what would be your response?