I’ll be up front with you – I don’t agree with owning a house.
I’m not sure you’ll agree with me but here are my 3 reasons why…
1. It’s a massive possession
A house is probably the most expensive thing you’re ever going to own. It’s also the thing you’re probably going to continually invest in, think about, want to improve, make bigger, make better and protect.
Therefore for many people a house is their greatest possession. It represents a massive investment.
And yet Jesus says your life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. I think the word ‘abundance’ means not only ‘many’, but also the quantity of the money involved. Therefore I am very uncomfortable with owning such a massive/abundant possession such as a house.
As a side note, it’s interesting to see the context in which Jesus makes this statement. He is asked to intervene in a dispute about inheritance and in giving his response he equates inheritance (i.e. money/land/housing) with ‘greed’ and ‘possessions’. Why does he make this link?
I think it’s because inheritances often involve large amounts of money. Today, what people inherit from their parents is often vast sums often bound up in property and houses. And large sums of money tend to alter us. Money deceives and corrupts us. We tend to think of houses as things we possess, but often its more accurate to say we are possessed by our houses.
Following Jesus means therefore we should be wary of large sums and massive possessions such as house-owning.
2. Associating with the poor
For those of you who own your own home, how does that make you feel?
Secure? Happy? Like you’re doing well in life? I’m sure your parents are pleased too?
How would it feel if you knew you were never going to own your own home? Would that make you feel insecure? Sad? Like you were not doing well in life?
The truth is, for millions of people in our country this is their fate.
You may say I should do something to help them get on the property ladder? Perhaps I should (please tell me what), but maybe one thing I can do is associate with them in their situation and by not owning a home. It means that when I speak with my neighbours I know a little of how they might feel, and they know I’m not ‘better than them’ because I own and they don’t.
If we are really following Jesus (and his example of becoming one of us) we cannot just make statements from a safe distance. Sometimes, we need to intentionally choose to associate with those who have less. In doing so, we can discover new riches.
3. Eternal perspectives
I’ve chatted to a few people over the years about this idea, and it’s no surprise that almost everyone thinks I’m absolutely bonkers! Crackers! Foolish!… “Why pay someone else’s mortgage” they cry!, “You’re throwing your money away each month – such a waste!”
Some even play the spiritual card “You aren’t stewarding the resources God gave you wisely.” Ouch!
However, “I say unto you, if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn him the other cheek also… If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two… Love your enemies… If anyone is to follow me he must deny himself and take up his cross…” Was Jesus bonkers to say these things?
It only makes sense if you remember that following Jesus means living for a different kingdom. One which isn’t built on power and aggression, where ‘might isn’t right’, and the ‘survival of the fittest’ is a nonsense!
When money and possessions are not the most important things anymore because there is an age to come. One day it’s all going to be renewed, and the comfortable, risk averse, secure life is going to look ridiculous in light of the renewed earth and the presence of the risen one.
If this stuff is true, why do you live as you do?
Our treasure is not of this world. We should look after the world, but let us not cling to it too heavily.
So where does this leave us? What if we come into a large sum of money and can afford to buy a house? Should we? What will happen when we’re 75 and can’t work to earn money to pay rent? I honestly don’t know. Truth is, that thought is a little scary. But, without sounding glib, surely we can trust God?
Maybe not every Christian should live like this, but surely in light of the way Jesus lived and spoke, a good proportion of his followers should?
Nathanael Gillett lives in Sutton and works as a graphic designer. He helps lead a Christian community called The Well. Follow him on twitter @natgillett