Friday, February 2

Real Estate

Jen and I have thought and talked a lot about buying a house. I don't really have a deep desire to own one, and I'm not eager for the hassles that come along with it, but many people have urged us to do so because it makes so much financial sense. And it really does:

1) In renting, we're "throwing our money away," whereas by owning we would build up equity. 
2) The house would be very likely to appreciate in value. So the money we're now giving someone else would be working for us, earning us a high rate of return. 
3) Of course the tax savings would help us a great deal, and in our case we could qualify for the clergy housing allowance which would save us all the money we now pay as tax on our rent.
4) We would own something tangible, permanent and sure to be of value in the future--land. Real property. (Thus it's called "real estate.") Gold may be an extremely secure asset but I think the future value of land is even more secure.
5) It would leave our children with an inheritance in the future, and could also help put them through college and so on.

So the only reason we haven't bought is . . . we haven't had the money, either down payment or income.

But what does God think about real estate? Today I'm deviating from Ephesians because I am excited by a Psalm I was praying a while ago. It excited me because I saw the Psalmist talking about these issues: real property, land ownership, inheritance, future security, and so on.

Passage: Psalm 37
37:1 Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers, 2 for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb. 3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. 4 Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. 6 He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday.

God promises that those who trust in him will live in the land and enjoy security. A secure future should motivate us. God holds it out as a reward, and specifically living in the land. Everyone should want this. 

The question is, How do we get this security in the land? We are taught the obvious way: "Save up your money and invest wisely in a choice piece of property." But God teaches: "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act."

What does this trusting look like, and in what kinds of situations?
   7 Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices. 8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret--it leads only to evil. 9 For the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land. 10 Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there. 11 But the meek shall inherit the land, and delight themselves in abundant prosperity. 

So this is where Jesus got his beatitude. He literally believes this is true: the meek will inherit the land. I always heard his teaching as "the earth" meaning some nebulous kind of part in the new heaven and the new earth. But in the context of this whole passage, which Jesus quotes, I think it's more tangible: real land. A real inheritance. Any Jewish person praying this Psalm would have thought of their family's land. So the new heaven and the new earth are that real--in fact more real, since this earth is destined to be destroyed by fire. Talk about Real Estate! That's Real property with a capital R.

Of course land always brings with it prosperity, and God promises that. We fear the traps of the prosperity gospel, which seems to grow more popular every day. And rightly so. This passage is set in the future, when the wicked have passed away. You will not find them or their place, no matter how hard you look. They may have a multi-million dollar mansion in Malibu today, but soon they will be gone. (The Malibu fires as I write this remind us of how temporary this "real" estate is.)

In that day, the meek will have land and abundant prosperity--and they will delight in it! My fear of the lies of the prosperity gospel cause me to downplay or completely miss this truth. God wants me to delight in prosperity! He promises it to us.

Now again, we ask, "How do we get land and abundant prosperity from the Lord?"

Well, it's the meek who will inherit it. Meek. That's a misunderstood word--it sounds like you have to be a milquetoast doormat. But this passage paints a clear picture of the "meek":

Verse 7: "Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their [evil] way . . . Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret . . . those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land." 

So meek parallels "those who wait for the Lord." Those who don't get angry. Who don't fret. In fact, not fretting is so important he repeats it twice, along with waiting. We are meek if we see injustice--the evil getting the goods--and we don't fret, we don't let our anger overtake us, but we wait patiently for the end that God has promised. That's meekness. Leaving the consequences in God's hands.

That is hard for me! I hate injustice. It galls me and riles me up. It seems so unfair that people who oppress others live it up in luxury at the expense of the poor, exploiting the weak for their own pleasure.

Aren't you glad to see the psalmist and God himself care about that, too? Look:
12 The wicked plot against the righteous, and gnash their teeth at them; 13 but the LORD laughs at the wicked, for he sees that their day is coming. 14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy, to kill those who walk uprightly; 15 their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken. 16 Better is a little that the righteous person has than the abundance of many wicked. 17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous. 18 The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will abide forever; 19 they are not put to shame in evil times, in the days of famine they have abundance. 20 But the wicked perish, and the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish--like smoke they vanish away.

Wow. Let's pray and work hard not to be wicked! 

Tomorrow I'll keep working on this Psalm--there's so much here. But for today, here's my 

1. I'm going to meditate on the goodness of owning land, having future security, enjoying abundant prosperity. And then remember that God promises all of that to us, in the future.
2. To be thankful for what I've already received in those ways, since those are blessings from God.
3. Those who get land, security and abundance are the meek and righteous. How can I ask God to make me more meek and righteous? Waiting on the Lord. Not fretting. Not being angry or full of wrath. Delighting in the Lord. Trusting myself to God. Doing good.

This is a great picture. Lord, with my finances, help me to do good. Help me not to get impatient and try to get things for myself or my family, but to wait on you. Help me to delight in you with my money and possessions: to delight in what you've already blessed us with, and to see that as from you. And to use it in ways that really put my trust in you, not in the power of the dollars I have. Amen.

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