God gave us our house. Really. My ownership of our current house is a set of miracles that is hard to believe. It started from the day we decided to sell our old apartment. We looked at the calendar and realised that with all our other obligations there was only one week that would work to sell. So we listed the house in the newspaper that Monday. By Thursday we had sold it for 90 percent more than we had listed it. The short story is that a newly constructed neighbouring apartment building released their prices on Sunday driving up the prices in the whole area. Just a few weeks later the bubble burst, the global food crisis hit, and the prices crashed. If we had sold a week earlier we would have gotten half what we received, a week or two later, half what we received. That week, chosen by the busyness of our calendar and not by any great real estate minds, was the one week when the prices peaked.
Once we moved we found we were not able to build. It was disappointing to say the least. Doubly so because we had rented a shack at the great price of $50 per month thinking we would only be there a few months. We were there for a year. On rainy nights we got rained on in bed, the bathroom was a toilet and bucket—no hand basin or shower… it was quite the place. Finally the government gave permission to build—just as the 2008 oil crisis ended—causing the cost of all the building materials to crash, many to as low as 40 percent what they had been only a month earlier. Since it was the beginning of the economic crisis and no one was building, suppliers, desperate to get end-of-year bonuses for meeting quota would sell us supplies for less than cost price. Again, we had no idea. I didn’t know that the suppliers were on crazy contracts, and I certainly couldn’t predict the oil prices.
It all makes for a great story. We sold at peak prices, built when things were incredibly cheap and for the months our money sat in the bank it earned 2 percent interest a month. The end result was that we got a house that was far beyond what we could have ever imagined.
However, it also gave us a sense of responsibility. God didn’t give us a six-bedroom house so that my husband and I could rotate rooms based on our whims. It’s to share. In the past four years we have had trainings, meetings, interns, new staff and people needing shelter staying. We have had people staying with us more often than not and we’ve been able to bless them all by not needing to collect rent.
Chapter five of Tim Keller’s book Generous Justice touches on our motivations for service—why should we serve the poor? Keller gives three reasons: one, the dignity of humans (Tessa will look at that on Wednesday); two, our gratefulness for HIs incredible grace (Glynka touches on that on Friday); and three, the recognition that all we are and have belongs to God.
It’s easy at times to recognize that everything belongs to God—like it was with our house. God’s provision was so radically clear that everything about it reminds us that it’s God’s. But in reality, ALL that we have belongs to God. Psalm 24:1 reminds us that “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” Every talent, ability and advantage that we have ever had came from God. All that we have built from those benefits belongs to God. It’s easy to feel, when we have worked hard for what we have, that it belongs to us, that it’s the result of our efforts, and yet that isn’t the story of God. God tells us instead that it all belongs to Him.
In 1 Chronicles 29:14, David comments, “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” David understood that all he had came from God. The result? A gratefulness for the generosity that it allows.
As we look and see all we have, it should lead us to gratitude and from that, generosity. Take a moment to look at all that God has given you. The assets, the talents, the creativity. How can you use all of that to bless others, especially the poor?