A few years ago, I made a decision that would change our lives, at least for now. We sold our 3-bedroom home with a nice, low mortgage payment and moved into a 5-bedroom home with an office and a mortgage payment that more than doubled the former. Some might say that it was, in the long haul, a good investment. I have often been kicking myself for rashly making the decision to purchase this home, but I will admit that it could just be because I am immature and am looking at the "now."
Don't get me wrong -we use our home. We are in it all the time. I am thankful for it, and it really is a blessing to enjoy. We can have people visit us. We can shack up people who need a place to stay for a little while. We can practice hospitality with the local body of Christ. There have been many great benefits.
But sometimes I think, "we could have done so much more and so many different things with all that money... savings, college accounts, giving, etc." This attitude, which hinders my thankfulness and sours my enjoyment of this blessing, is primarily what I want to write about, here.
Whether you think we made the right move in buying a big home or not, I am starting to see how God works all things for our good even in the midst of our (sometimes) foolish choices. See, if we did not have this home, I would perhaps not have seen the degree to which I bank my security on things -on my financial situation, on the economy, on the job market, etc. I have come to see just how these things have, and still do, rule me. This is idolatry, for only God is meant to rule my life.
Is it bad to want some degree of financial security? Is it bad to plan for the future? Is it bad to make prudent financial decisions? Of course not. However, recently I listened to part of a message by C. J. Mahaney about idols. He spent a lot of time unpacking a very important concept: idols are often things that are, in themselves, perfectly good. They aren't just wooden statues or things like pornography. They are functional gods made out of things that are usually good things.
John Calvin said:
"The evil in our desires usually lies not in what we want but that we want it too much."
That is what makes it an idol. You want it too much -to the degree that it rules your life, even for a moment. It ultimately drives your decisions and reactions to people and situations. It rules over your joy or lack thereof. It becomes the basis for things like security and identity. In these ways, the desire, even with a perfectly good object, takes a place of lordship over us which is reserved for God alone. The act is sinful and the results are sinful.
Anyway, I see how I have been making an idol out of things like... wanting to preserve the investment in our property (keeping things nice), wanting to be financially secure, etc. We have had the benefit of having water seepage underneath the garage, having the whole driveway dug up, having things sink that aren't supposed to, having tiles show hairline cracks, having the dogs dig up all the new landscaping we had put in last year... you name it. We have seen the economy and the housing market basically head down the toilet. We see more and more homes go on the market, right in our neighborhood. We have had the benefit of having crackpots live near us with their doomsday prediction of the end of the U.S. economy.
As crazy as much of this is, all of these things have been used for my good, I have to say, because they have been used to squeeze this idol in me so that its head would be exposed in plain sight. If we stayed in our old home, I probably wouldn't have such a benefit. It isn't relatively that hard to get rid of a lower-market home, if you have to, and it wouldn't be all that hard to cover a mortgage less than half of what it is currently, if I lost my job and had to find a new one. Thus, I would probably have continued to live in comfortable idolatry.
I don't think idolatry should ever be comfortable, so I am thankful for the stresses relating to our home. They have shown me just how much my heart has been ruled by things other than God.
It is a house. It may be gone tomorrow, for all we know, but it is ours. God has given us a place to live in, clothes on our backs, money for food, etc. Even if I think my decision a few years ago was a bad one, He still has consistently provided for us. Hence, I ought to be thankful for His provision, no matter what it is, rather than being ruled by what ifs and desires for financial stability.
I am reminded of the teaching of Tim Keller. When God is in His rightful place, when Christ is our security and identity, then money is just money, a house is just a house -all gifts to be thankful for, temporal things to be enjoyed, but things nevertheless that will rot, fade, rust, and dwindle. John Piper reminded me, recently, that our battle is a battle to rest where we ought to rest, and not in all the things the world tells us to rest in. May our hope and security and identity be built on the Rock, and may we flee from those idols.