Friday, August 30, 2013

Be a producer and never retire

Have you ever asked yourself whether you consider yourself to be more of a consumer or more of a producer?

Well, my wife and I have discussed this several times, and on each occasion we arrive at the same conclusion: we need to stop focusing on ourselves and family, and think more about our fellow man (the rest of society)! We think that the majority of people tend to be consumers rather than producers, and that in our secular society today, people work primarily to serve themselves. The ultimate hope seems to be to achieve retirement as soon as possible, and to enjoy the pleasures of life indefinitely until death.

There's nothing wrong with rest and leisure, for we all need it to recover and rejuvenate, but there is a certain threshold or level at which rest and leisure become excessive. I don't know what that threshold is, but I do think that people should take the time to think about the meaning and purpose of their work.

According to Rabbi Daniel Lapin it isn't supposed to be this way. In his interview with Pat Roberston, he discusses his book, Thou Shall Prosper - 10 Commandments for Making Money, and he says that the 10th commandment is to never retire. He says plainly,
 "...never retire...who told you that you could retire?"

In other words, nowhere in the Judeo-Christian tradition does it ever teach or mention that people are supposed to stop working and stop doing things for other people. He says that we are always called to serve other people, and should continually ask ourselves how we can supply what people need. This means that we should never resign or rest in this effort as long as we are mentally and physically capable. Contrast this with our secular society that indoctrinates us with TV commercials such as Freedom 55. We are told to serve only ourselves, and to retire to a life of luxury.

My wife and I are now headed in a different direction. We want to scale down, consume less, and become producers in order to serve our fellow man.

Here are some Judeo-Christian teachings about work that counter what our secular society preaches today.
  • The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. Genesis 2:15
  • Show yourself in all respects a model of good deeds, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censured, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us. Titus 2:7-8 
  • Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need. Ephesians 4:28.
  • I made great works; I built houses and planted vineyards for myself; I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house; I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces; I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, man’s delight.
    So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem; also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them; I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. Ecclesiastes 2:4-11 
  • " and the circumstances of everyday life are occasions for growing closer to God, for serving others, and for improving society." Opus Dei


  1. That's great stuff from the rabbi.
    Loved ths line: “If you realize that (making money) is the consequence of helping other people get the things they need, what right do you have to stop? Who told you that you are through with helping other people?”

  2. "My wife and I are now headed in a different direction. We want to scale down, consume less, and become producers in order to serve our fellow man."

    What do you mean - how are you going to become producers (or what kind of producers?)

  3. Good question! I probably should have described it in more detail. There are two perspectives for us: (1) micro level - daily life considerations, and (2) macro level - state of mind as a disciple of Christ.

    At the micro level it means simply that we think of all the things that "go in", and all the things that "come out". The big one for us is information. Watching a movie, reading a book, taking a course, watching the news, it's all consumption of information. My wife and I realized that it may be high time to ease up on that and not be so consumed with information. It is not necessary to know as much we can, especially when the information doesn't serve any useful purpose. We are extremely selective in what we read and watch. It's not necessary to know every single world event, and a little ignorance is absolutely fine.

    The opposite of consuming information is to produce information (i.e. to write). Puting out good ideas that can have a positive affect on others is something we are trying to do. My wife started writing, which may one day result in a book or two, who knows, and we have both started blogging.

    There are other examples too: the opposite of learning is teaching, the opposite of listening to music is to create music, the opposite of appreciating art and photography is to produce art and photography. Almost every action can be analyzed down to whether or not it is an act of consumption (good or bad), or production (good or bad). We just want to use our time more wisely and have a better balance between consumption and production.

    At the macro level I am refering to a state of mind, attitude, and actions that makes us think of ourselves as being servants to humanity in some way. If we are not servants, then we are just taking in everything rather than "giving back". Christ is our model. In our case we think that "serving" our immediate family members, and helping an immediate relative here and there is not enough. We want to "serve" the public in some way by doing something that creates value for them, or helps in some way. We have started to think of business ideas, products, services, etc. In my case, for example, I started a business to repair computers. It's the first time in my life I started a business. In my mind, it's a step towards being a producer in that I am offering a useful service - I like to think :-). My wife has been generating a lot business ideas as well...and who knows, a time may come when something happens. Just talking about it is having a producer mentality.