“The Bible says nothing about retirement. Christians just keep working until they die,” the speaker said with confidence. Ooops! He must have missed Numbers 8:25 about the Levites who ran the Old Testament Tabernacle: “At the age of 50, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer.” 

But what about Moses who didn’t start his job as leader of Israel until he was 80 and kept working until he was 120? And then there was Abraham, claimed as the father of the world’s three great monotheistic religions, who became the father of Isaac when he was 100. God is infinitely old. Jesus was crucified at 33.

When the U.S. Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787, the average life expectancy in this country was 35. The minimum age requirement for a president or vice president was established as 35. Today’s life expectancy is almost 79. If we applied the rules of inflation to presidential elections, candidates would have to have been born before 1938 to run for the White House in 2016.

Cultures on the map and centuries on the calendar change the way we relate to youth and age. Many people live in gerontocracies where old men rule. Others ignore the old and emphasize the young. It’s easy to forget that in every time and place, the older were once younger and the younger will age.

While our American culture has enjoyed longer lives and youthful characteristics more than any other, we now have a large contingent of citizens in or near retirement. Younger Americans are increasingly from immigrant families. Our church demographics change with the national demographics, which means we will have older people.

There are over 150 biblical references to generations. The Bible respects the past and looks to the future. As we look to older Americans we take the counsel of Deuteronomy 32:7, “Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you.”

This article originally appeared in the NAE Insight.

Leith Anderson
Leith Anderson has been president of the National Association of Evangelicals since 2006, and was the senior pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, for 35 years before retiring in 2011. He regularly teaches in seminaries, addresses evangelical concerns with elected officials, and provides theological and cultural commentary to leading news outlets. He has been published in many periodicals and has written over 20 books. Anderson has a Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary, and is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, Bradley University and Denver Seminary.