Daniel and Amanda’s Weblog

April 29, 2008

Condo for rent

Filed under: christianity,wealth — theburts @ 9:21 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Much of our lives lately has been consumed by fixing up our condo to rent. Cleaning (at which our two moms are INCREDIBLE), painting, patching, and more…almost every free night after work has been spent there getting it ready to show. Since it’s way too big for Amanda and I to live there (about 2,500 sq ft), and since the market isn’t the best for selling right now, we’ve decided to rent it out. It’s now officially on Craigslist here.

If we can’t find tenants who want to live in this nice part of town and pay this much rent for a big condo, we’re going to move in when our apartment lease is up and live there until we sell it. In the meantime, we’d be searching for a house, or apartment building, or farm, or something…

The last 2 years of my life have been somewhat formative; they have changed me a lot. Everything was easy until I discovered that it was possible to really follow Jesus’ teachings today, even in America where we’re sometimes so distanced from so many of the things Jesus taught about. Back then, I was climbing the job ladder and trying to make more money, I invested in this nice condo to begin building equity, I shopped at TJ Max (yes, even for home decor occasionally!), when I wanted something new I bought it without much hesitation…and then I begin reading about rich America and begin to see how I was buying into the American dream philosophy and too easily accepting what culture taught me was normal. I read things like this quote from St. Basil:

“Who is the greedy person? It’s him who doesn’t content himself with what he has. And who strips? He who steals what belongs to the others. And you think that you are not greedy, and that you do not strip the others? What was granted to you, in order for you to take care of the others, you took it and you made it your own. What do you think? He who strips the clothed is to be called a thief. How should we name him, who is able to dress the naked and doesn’t do it, does he deserve some other name? The bread that you possess belongs to the hungry. The clothes that you store in boxes, belong to the naked. The shoes rotting by you, belong to the bare-foot. The money that you hide belongs to anyone in need. You wrong as many people as you were able to help.” St. Basil (taken from Sojourners magazine)

So I (along with my friend Josh, going along the same path) moved out of this huge condo in Belle Meade to north Nashville, to an area that the city has all but abandoned. In community there, we often discussed owning property, money and finances as they relate to our Christian faith, investing…and I was often challenged to think differently about these topics, or at least see them from a different angle. So now here are some questions that all of this has led to regarding what to do with the property that Amanda and I now own. We chose to live in an apartment instead of buying a home right away, and continue trying to rent the condo to help pay off the mortgage. But now what?

1) We own a large home, 2,500 sq ft could house several people easily…are we being greedy to rent this out rather than working through Safe Haven to house a homeless family in it (like we’d originally planned with another house we were trying to buy pre-wedding)?

Whatever you think, we want to be held accountable on what we’re doing with $1300 a month income. It could be so easy to slip back into a life of self interest…

2) We don’t want to be in debt…we don’t believe that staying in debt is either healthy or what God intends for us. So in that way, paying off a mortgage is a very good thing to do. But we need to be encouraged not to overlook charity in the meantime. If we give all our extra money to the mortgage and none to the poor, we overlook the immediate need of our neighbors even though we still may be using the money for a good cause (getting out of debt). We want to be close to the poor now, not just in either distant acts of charity OR future plans to give lots of money. Yet getting out of debt will allow us to eventually do greater things for those in need. So my question here is: How do we balance these two good things?
A. Paying off loans / getting out of debt, so that we can be freed up to do more for the poor
B. Serving immediate needs of the poor

It’s basically the same as the decision to invest…I can give more money, probably, if I wait and invest it and have a million dollars in 10 or 20 years instead of 200,000 now. So which is the wise and stewardly thing to do? And to this I would disagree that the wisest way would always be to save, invest, and give the larger sum at some point in the future. I just know there has to be some balance to this.

We’d love your input! May the Lord lead us in his footsteps, even through dangerous areas. And, on a lighter note, may he direct our paths, or at least keep us in good humor, as we venture over our heads in condo repairs. :)  Peace.

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9 Comments »

  1. Your struggles are not unique. I am also challenged with similar questions when it comes to deciding between what to do now versus waiting to do more in the future. I have been blessed financially and want to be a good steward. I have a mortgage and desire to have it paid off as quickly as possible so I will have more money freed up to further the Kingdom. The decision I have made is that when I get a raise, I put half of it or less on the mortgage and use the remainder to help others and admittedly give us some breathing room.

    side note – keep blogging, I thoroughly enjoy your insite and it really challenges me in my walk.

    Comment by Chad — April 30, 2008 @ 8:41 am | Reply

  2. When you get a chance, check out my blog sometime. I’d love to hear your comments on some of my posts.

    Comment by Chad — April 30, 2008 @ 8:43 am | Reply

  3. God talks about three things:
    1) Stay away from debt,
    2) Plan for the future,
    3) Give to His kingdom.

    If your budget is balanced where you are out of debt, investing for emergencies and future expenses, and are giving to charity, than don’t feel bad if God chooses you to be wealthier than others. There are a lot of examples of well off individuals; Joseph, Jacob, Solomon…

    If your budget is not balanced; so you have debt, you are not planning for the future, and/or you are not giving to charity, than you should feel guilty, because you are not following the Lord’s teachings. You need to fix your situation and than you can start wondering about giving above the nominal 10% to charities.

    There will always be poor people for a host of reasons. The Lord does not call to us “end poverty”, he calls us to bless others as He has blessed us.

    Be balanced in your finances and you will be a good steward.

    http://www.beatingdebt.wordpress.com

    Comment by BDO — April 30, 2008 @ 7:47 pm | Reply

  4. Thanks for the encouraging comments, Chad!

    BDO, when you get time, check out the series I wrote on “Why we share our wealth.”

    https://theburts.wordpress.com/2008/01/15/why-we-share-our-wealth-part-1/

    As most of my blog readers will already know, I feel like the “prosperity gospel” is one of the biggest distortions of scripture…although you’re not implicitly preaching that gospel, saying things like “don’t feel bad if God chooses you to be wealthier than others” seems dangerously close. Yes, I do feel that God blesses some people with the ability to make lots of money. I do not feel like God ever chooses people to use their wealth to immerse themselves in luxury (whether that be a third coat, a new couch, or a mercedes) while the poor suffer.

    Hope you’ll get time to ponder some of the scripture I presented in that series along with what Jesus said about the poor always being with us. Jesus never taught that there’s so much poverty, and always will be, so we shouldn’t be trying to end it…he never wants us to use the insurmountable nature of poverty to excuse ourselves from living simply and being radically generous with our wealth.

    PS. I’d also like to know what you feel is scriptural basis that God asks us to plan for the future…though we do minimally invest in IRA, most of what I see tends to say that we shouldn’t worry about our future, and that we shouldn’t “store up in barns.” I certainly think that you’re right in that there’s balance here, but I do think we should mention these verses when talking about investing for yourself…otherwise, a rich millionaire retiree who wisely invested for herself and now is living a life of luxury and self gratification is all of a sudden our prime example of following Christ.

    Comment by theburts — May 1, 2008 @ 10:53 am | Reply

  5. It is such a challenge to Christians when we really start looking at what Jesus has to say if we want to be a follower: To die to ourselves, to care up our cross daily, to feed My sheep. Granted, all things are relative but it bothers me when I look around the church parking lot and see Mercedes, BMWs, Hummers, etc. Tony Campolo made a statement that went something like: “There is nothing wrong with a Christian making a million dollars but there is somethinge wrong with him or her keeping it.” We are all looking for balance but Jesus to my recollection never told us to look for a happy medium (i.e. luke warm) but to be radical. It scares me to even type this b/c it means that I have to examine the way I live and first remove the plank from my eye so I can see more clearly. I have to get out of the judging business and get into examining my walk and what I am instilling in my kids.

    The other day I gave my lunch to a homeless guy and went without. Don’t pat me on the back b/c this is something I rarely do but when I went home and talked with my kids about their high/low for the day and they ask me the same, I shared this story. The rest of the day my kids were searching out for someone to help, to sacrifice. It brought tears to my eyes to see what a simple act that was of little sacrifice to me had such a major impact on my kids. All my kids really want from me is my time and attention much like what my Father in heaven wants from me.

    If you are an avid reader and havent’ read them already I would encourage you to read Jim Cymbala’s books: “Fresh wind, Fresh Fire” and “Fresh Faith”. I am reading the second one right now and have the other one on hold from the Library.

    In HIM.

    Comment by Chad — May 1, 2008 @ 12:02 pm | Reply

  6. Chad,
    Very good points. Let me answer some of the questions you brought up.

    God talks about three things with finances:
    1) Stay away from debt, (Pvbs 22:7, Rms 13:8)
    2) Plan for the future, (Lk 14:28)
    3) Give to His kingdom. (Lk 6:38)

    1. Stay away from debt. God cautions us to stay away from debt, because it makes us slaves to someone else besides Him. So, earn your freedom back by paying back the loan. Therefore you will be free to use God’s money as He sees fit, instead of how the creditors see fit.

    2. Plan for the future. We know three things will happen to us in the future. Things will break down and need to be replaced, we will grow old and not make as much money, and we will die. By knowing those things will happen, how will we choose to spend our money? Can we set a small sum away that God has given us to make sure that when we need it, God has provided already?

    3. Give to His Kingdom. All money we earn is His. Out of gratitude we should give back at least 10% back to him as a love offering. By doing this we will show him our obedience to his Laws.

    Those three ideas are hopefully not copied from one of the “prosperity” preachers, because I’ve never listened to those guys. But I do believe God blesses us with gifts, maybe monetary, to use skillfully for His purposes. By employing those 3 ideas, it will help anyone be a good steward of the money He has blessed us with (as Americans as your previous posts suggests).

    But I also don’t believe God calls us all to live like Mother Teresa. There are plenty of high ranking, powerful, and rich people in the Bible that God uses for his purposes. Just as much as there are plenty of examples of dirt poor people being used mightily by God. It is not what you have that is the point, it is how you use it.

    Obviously, the Lord is working in your heart to speak a personal message with you. That is awesome. You are sharing with us that you are being convicted by the wealth around you. That is awesome.

    The equation is simple: Money Received minus Money Spent must equal Zero. So, if your number is a positive number instead of zero, than you can choose to either make less money or spend more on God. Either way, it will lower your disposable income for the temptations of wealth.

    God Bless!

    http://www.beatingdebt.wordpress.com

    Comment by BDO — May 1, 2008 @ 6:53 pm | Reply

  7. Hey BDO, thanks for the clarification. I don’t necessarily think that Jesus was talking about saving money for the future when he talked about counting the cost, but I also don’t necessarily feel that it’s a bad idea to put away some money for retirement. You put it well…”Can we set a small sum away that God has given us to make sure that when we need it, God has provided already?”

    The problem is that, in this country, we so often go over the top. Bigger is better, from homes to cars to retirement funds. There’s a large gap between setting a small sum away to make sure we’ll have what we need as elderly and setting aside so much money that we can live like millionaires toward the end of our lives. What makes some Christians feel like they deserve so much luxury when so many people are starving to death? One answer would be selfishness and greed…Christ calls us to be selfless, as he showed us with his very life, and to love our neighbor as ourselves…whether that’s through taking care of our elderly neighbor or forfeiting the yacht to provide education for hundreds of underprivileged children. We cannot read the gospel and not come away with a sense that God cares immensely for the poor. I cannot say that I, too, care immensely for the poor when I live a life of self indulgence and give 10% of my enormous wealth to their cause.

    When we speak of being called, God call everyone to be compassionate to the poor. That’s not some distinct and special call I’ve gotten…again, you can’t read the Bible and miss that. It’s a call that applies to everyone. God doesn’t call us to be like Mother Teresa, we’re called to be like Christ. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said “It is not what you have that is the point, it is how you use it.” God does bless some of us with enormous potential and occasionally enormous wealth…we decide how to use it. I think all followers of the Way are called to use it for something other than their own self-gratification.

    Comment by theburts — May 5, 2008 @ 10:22 am | Reply

  8. What if you live in the condo and share the space? Make it a community. Either charge a small amount of rent for the other people or open it up for people in need. Either way, you still need to pay the mortgage. And you can help others by sharing the space and costs of living.
    There are times we make decisions and later realize they do not align with the way we want to live our lives. But we cannot just get out of that decision. We have to live with it in the wisest way and continue toward our goal. I don’t really think there is a right or wrong choice; you simply need to make the choice that most closely follows your values. And sometimes we have to prioritize our values to “fix” a decision from the past.
    And as a side comment, I disagree with “you should feel guilty, because you are not following the Lord’s teachings.” I understand what the comment meant, but I do not believe in a God who wants us to feel guilty so that we do things the way He wants. He loves us and wants what is best for us, yes, but guilt is not the way we should follow Him. Perhaps convicted would be a better choice of words; I take this to mean you become aware of your actions and motives and want to improve and become more Christ-like. But perfection is not the goal, a continual process of growing more loving of Jesus, ourselves and others.
    Peace.

    Comment by Dawn — May 7, 2008 @ 9:47 am | Reply

  9. After I read this I just kept wondering if you are planning to have children in the next few years. My husband and I had our first nearly a year ago and are still paying the hospital bill off. Before we get pregnant again, we’d like to pay the first bill off completely and then save some for the second. I’ve learned a lot about natural childbirth and I want to have my next baby in a birth center rather than the hospital. I honestly feel God wants me to have my babies outside of the hospital setting. Unfortunately, my insurance doesn’t cover it so we will probably be faced with a larger bill than we would in the hospital. We don’t want to be pressured into doing the wrong thing because it is cheaper to us. Therefore, we are saving up for it. It’s just something to think about!

    Comment by Jenny Harmon — May 10, 2008 @ 12:06 pm | Reply


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