Friends of ours have been remodeling their home for the past few months. Most nights and weekends you will find them toiling away inside, ripping out faded carpet to install new hardwood flooring; updating neglected walls with a fresh coat of paint; and replacing old mismatched switch plates and outlets with new coordinating fixtures. Outside their pruning is taming an overgrown landscape; inside their labors are restoring beauty to a once-neglected house.
Our friends explained that the previous owners were so involved in the demands of work and family, they didn't devote much time to the upkeep of the house. And little by little, through the years the house fell into disrepair. The husband summed up the previous owners' care of the house this way: "They just lived in the house."
That statement has tumbled around in my mind for the past several weeks.
They just lived in the house.
And I realize that in many ways I have behaved in my own house like a negligent tenant and not an owner. Instead of investigating problems as they arise and following through on solutions, too often I have resigned myself to simply accept annoyances and maneuver around them. And with practice, I barely notice cabinets with missing knobs, sinks that clog and drawers that stick.
But with a new year comes new resolve.
With the turning of a calendar page, so many of us determine to do better on the home front. With fresh eyes, we see a cluttered closet as the oasis of organization it could be. Fabric still on the bolt unfurls with the promise of new home decorating projects. We resolutely open tool boxes, paint cans and decorating magazines, eager to invest in the place we call home.
But even as we reorganize, repair and redecorate, we must balance our desire to be better stewards of our material blessings with the knowledge that this earth is temporal. Matthew 6:19-21 reminds us, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
As I contemplate laying up treasures in heaven, that phrase comes back to me, and I think about the spiritual applications of just living in the house. When I approach my life with the cavalier attitude of a tenant just living for the pleasure of the moment, I squander the resources God has given me instead of living each day to His glory. When I am merely a tenant in my family, instead of working through conflict and pain, I resign myself to accepting feelings of hopelessness and isolation. And when I am content to just live in the world, with practice I barely notice the suffering and sin-sick people around me who need to know God's love.
But God doesn't want me to just live in the house, watching helplessly as it crumbles around me. Jesus says in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly." And Galatians 4:7 tells me that God accepts me not as a servant -- not as a tenant -- but as His child. In fact, as His heir.
And that totally changes the way I want to behave in the house.
So as we turn the calendar page and begin another year, we must decide whether we will live like tenants or heirs. And the questions before us are these:
- This year, will you just live in your house? Or will you make it better?
- Will you just live in your family? Or will you make it stronger?
- And finally, will you just live in the world? Or will you change it?
The decisions -- and the blessings -- are yours.
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