People > Portfolios (Part 3)
This is the third blog in a series addressing the housing crisis being experienced in our community, Nicholtown. (And countless others for that matter). The first two blogs have concentrated on the tragedy and injustice of what is happening. We’ve allowed ourselves to sink into the deep waters of lament, and this blog begins our journey as we come up for air and search for hope.
What hope do we have that things will change? Well, our hope is two-fold. We are given a hope for the future, and a hope for the meantime. I love the way the Heidelberg Catechism puts it, “What is your only comfort in life and in death?”
“That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death— to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.” Later the Catechism reminds us that, “He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.”
“All things MUST work together for my salvation.” There is a profound mystery bound up in that promise…and perhaps that mystery is beyond our comprehension, but as the Jess Ray lyric goes, “it may be too good to be understood, but it’s not too good to be true.” Nothing is wasted in the mysterious providence of God. God takes what the enemy means for evil, and turns it for our good. That confounding truth will short-circuit my brain if I’m not careful, but it’ll also make my heart explode if I let it. If God is always with us, and if God’s nearness is our greatest good, then every painful circumstance has the ability to throw us into deeper dependence upon him, which serves as a refining fire that does not disfigure us, but instead glorifies us. (From one degree of glory to the next.) That hope culminates in the promise that all of God’s kids will experience the abundance of his provisions, forever. A forever life, without lack. That is a hope for the future, and a hope for the meantime.
And yet, that’s not where we should stop. Remember, life doesn’t have to be this way. Sure, God can take what the enemy meant for evil and He can turn it for good. But that doesn’t justify evil. Certainly not a Christian’s complicity in it. We are not merely sitting on our hands waiting for God to take us home to the sweet by and by. We are not just hopeful that God will get us through this fire. We are hopeful that wildflowers will spring forth from the scorched earth. This world is not a failed project being crinkled up and tossed in the trash. This world is a good and beautiful place being renewed by the grace and power of God. And what if God wants to use each of us in His renewal project?
As N.T. Wright puts it, “God hasn’t saved us from the world, but for the world.” For those of us who follow Jesus, we are following our Savior in the way of mercy, justice, and righteousness. We are signing up to be gentle revolutionaries whose radically loving choices in the everyday stuff of life confounds the world, breaches the gates of hell, and plants seeds of hope that will one day tower as promised sequoias in a new world marked by the knowledge of the glory of God.
Revolutionary choices, in the ordinariness of life, to the glory of God. That is how we make the world more heavenly.
Well what in the world does that have to do with housing insecurity? Everything, actually. What if we believed that everything we had was given to us by God… all of it - our gifts, our resources, our time, our social location. And what if we believed that everything we have been given was meant to be managed for God’s renewal project? That would change things wouldn’t it? What if our primary purpose in real-estate development wasn’t to maximize profit margins? What if it was to maximize secure housing for the vulnerable?
Come on, don’t roll your eyes. I’m serious!
What if our primary purpose in housing development was to develop stable housing for those who needed it most? What if the priorities of God, were our priorities to? What would that change?
I’m not interested in playing the “well how much money am I allowed to make” game. That’s the wrong game. It’s not about how much money you make. Money isn’t the problem. The love of money might be… but there’s something else that’s really important that we’ve got to be aware of. We can’t sleep on the significance of vocation. Work matters. Instead of asking, “how much money am I allowed to make through my work” we should ask, “what am I working for?” Rather than asking, how much money am I allowed to make through my housing investment, we should ask, what am I investing in? What am I doing with this house? Am I leveraging this house to make money? Or am I leveraging this house to make the world more heavenly? (Those things aren’t mutually exclusive either - but only one of them can be a primary priority). Work isn’t primarily about making money (although that’s certainly an important part of it). The late Tim Keller defined work this way, “Work is rearranging the raw material of God’s creation in such a way that it helps the world in general, and people in particular, thrive and flourish.”
Every housing investment is an opportunity to help people in particular, thrive and flourish. And that’s God’s design for work. That should be our primary priority in our work, and that must always include our investments. Can you make money while doing that? Yes, of course! (In fact, when you do things God's way, you’re going with the grain of the universe and that usually yields greater blessing, not less). A question that is helpful to ask when purchasing property and deciding what to do with it: Will this decision make the world more heavenly or more hellish for the most vulnerable in my midst? Or more simply put, “how would Christ invest this property?”
Okay, I get it…if you rolled your eyes before, you just fell over. Hear me out. Wouldn’t your heart sing to know that your choices (revolutionary though they are) have made the world a more gentle place for the weariest among us? Imagine how full your heart would be to know that your work is changing the circumstances of people for the better. Rather than contributing to fear and despair, your work is sowing seeds of hope and joy. Above everything I want your heart to ache for a world painted in justice and love. And I want you to believe you hold a brush.
God gave you that brush, so paint.
What hope do we have for a world in crisis? Here’s my hope: God is empowering people all over our city, our country, and our world, to live as gentle revolutionaries in the ordinariness of life. I believe God is good enough and powerful enough to transform the hearts and minds of people all over the world in such a radical way, that they would see work not primarily as a means to create comfort, wealth, and security… but as a means to “help the world in general, and people in particular, thrive and flourish.” I am hopeful that wherever God’s presence is at work, heaven and earth are colliding.
And someday that collision will be permanent.