BUYING A HOUSE
Written by Doug Ponder on October 2, 2016
Buying a House to the Glory of God
Like a blanket of syrup over a warm waffle, the saving rule of Jesus extends into every nook and cranny of life. This means there is nothing in creation that is untouched by the scope of his redemption, including many actions that Christians have tended to view as “neutral” or unrelated to the gospel. All things—including buying a house, for example—are pursuits that can be undertaken to the glory of God (Col 3:17).
In other words, God is at work in our lives to bring everything “in step with the truth of the gospel” (Gal 2:14). But the specifics of how we do this changes depending on the nature of the pursuit. For example, when we look at how the gospel shapes the the way we buy houses (or not), there are four questions to consider.
Why Do We Buy Houses? (What Are Houses For?)
Christians know that everything God has given us, including our houses (or homes in whatever form we have them), are gifts to be used to increase the knowledge of the glory of the Lord (Hab 2:14). That is where everything is headed, to a world filled with people awake to the wonder of God’s glory and grace. And that means that even our homes are gifts given for this purpose.
How is this so? Because houses provide us a place of safety and security. Houses give us the chance to build a life that honors God. They give us the space to raise children who will grow up to glorify God. They give a chance to enjoy the grace of God, who “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Tim 6:17), and houses give us the means for sharing God’s abundant grace with those around us (1 Tim 6:18).
What Do We Need?
The average house today is twice the size it was in 1950, even though the average family is only half as big. This is due to many factors, but one of them is that people don’t begin with the previous question (Why do we buy houses?). After all, you can’t know what you need in a home unless you first know what a home is for. You have to begin with the end in mind. We’ve seen that a house, like every one of God’s gifts, is given for the increase of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord. And we’ve also seen specifically how houses do this, giving us a space where we can build a life, raise a family, enjoy God’s grace, and share with others.
All this means that we need a place to cook and eat. We need a place to hang out. And we need a place to sleep. (Which doesn’t mean that every child needs their own bedroom.) Beyond these things, most of the other things we seek in a home fall into the “it would be nice if…” category. This doesn’t mean you should necessarily feel guilty if your house is bigger than what you need. But it does mean we should feel a lot more gratitude and a lot less entitlement than we often do, since the vast majority of what we have far surpasses our actual needs.
Where Should We Live?
God doesn’t love you more in you live the city more instead of a suburb or the county. God loves people, and people live almost everywhere. That said, we all have reasons for why we are drawn to specific settings, and not all of these reasons are “in step with the truth of gospel.”
For example, some people move to the suburbs because they have fears of whole people groups that are deeply rooted in racism. Others move to the city because they like the nightlife or the restaurant scene. And, of course, many people move to specific places because of the schools in the area. There is a great deal to say about this unbelievably common practice, but underneath the move is a massive discussion involving philosophical assumptions about the modern public school system that probably need to be rethought with wise guidance and with great prayer. The point is, we shouldn’t move anywhere out of fear or greed or elitism or any value that is out of step with the priorities of God’s kingdom. At the forefront of our minds should be the desire to honor God with our home by loving and serving and the neighbors we encounter wherever we land.
How Much Should We Pay?
“How much should we pay?” is a different question (with a different answer) than “How much can we afford?” The second question tries to maximize the size or luxury you can get for your money. But the first question arises from a different place with a different goal in mind: how much should we pay for this one thing (a house) in view of all the other things we might also use our money for?
When your mind and heart are transformed by the gospel, a radical others-centered love begins to fill the holes where self-centeredness once lived. “[I]n humiity count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4). So if a less expensive home that still met your needs would leave more leftover to give to others, why not take the smaller payment in order to increase the potential for generosity (2 Cor 8:2)?
Doug Ponder is one of the founding pastors of Remnant Church in Richmond, VA, where he serves in the church’s teaching ministries. He has contributed to several published works and is a regular contributor to RE|SOURCE. His interests include the intersection of theology, ethics, and the Christian life. Follow him on Twitter @dougponder.