The other day I was confronted with the not uncommon form driven question “Do you rent or own your home?”. It’s not a new or even unusual question. I’ve been asked that question dozens of times over the course of my lifetime. It’s usually connected to something financial, something you’re trying to be approved for that has some form of financial investment connected to it. I’ll admit to being a lifelong, at least adult life, renter. I’m good with it. It’s not a matter of insecurity or feeling of not accomplishing the American dream. In countless instances it has served us, my wife and I, very well … even being an advantage on more than one occasion. We have always been blessed with great landlords. We have always sought to be great tenants… you know, the leave it better than you find it type. I do recognize that we are often the exception and there is often a stigma attached to renting as opposed to owning. Unless of course if you live in a city like Seattle, where you have less likelihood of being able to buy your first house than winning a Powerball fortune. For years I have bore witness to the differences between renting and being a “renter”. One being the result of personal preference and the other being a label. What determines the difference? What distinguishes one from renting or being a “renter”. I’m glad you asked.
In my opinion, it lies in the question referred to in the beginning of this post. The question is not “Do you rent or own your house?”. The question is “Do you rent or own your home?”. See the difference? It’s subtle, but profound. I know this because I live with a wife who, with great skill, passion, and care, has always been able to transfer the most challenging choices of houses into undeniable “homes”. The first impression and comments that accompany a step into any one of our countless places of residence through the years has always been warm … inviting … home. We are renters and we create home. On the other hand, I have seen first hand the results of a “renter” mentality. It’s a mentality that justifies itself by claiming, sometimes proudly “this is not mine” … in other words, I don’t have to invest or even care about it. I can literally destroy it without remorse because “it’s not mine” or “I paid my security”. “Renters” are the reason that we have security deposits in the first place … and honestly why they are so ridiculous. The reason why those of us renting often have to deal with first, last, and a month security before moving in … add that up in a 2500.00 plus market … is because of “renters”.
We, as churches, and as people of faith who inhabit them, tend to live like this in our neighborhoods. There’s a line in an old hymn “this world is not my home, I’m just a passin through” has inadvertently helped us become “renters” in our place. I know all about the theology behind this … I know that this isn’t really my home. I know that I have a home beyond this present world. Many people don’t know this though and they’re not necessarily interested in our version of a future home when they witness how we treat this one , the only one that they can grasp, while we are here. When we neglect to invest in our neighborhoods, we are known as “renters”. When we show a disregard for creation and the world around us, we are known as “renters”. When we step over, around, or close our eyes to the brokenness we encounter on a daily basis, we are “renters”. A current contextual examination of Jeremiah 29:4-7 can give us a bit more insight into how we might consider living into and investing in our own places.
My wife and I tend to do a great deal of work in the places that we choose as home. Normal people tend to think it ridiculous of us and a waste of money … after all, “its’ not your house” they protest. You’re right, but it’s still our home. That mentality has followed us into our neighborhoods … shaped by the same values. We are investors in what others would see as “not ours”. There is an economy to your neighborhood, social, spiritual, physical, financial. Invest in it. It is yours … and Jesus is the only security