Does God Owe You a House?
Beloveds of the Most High,
Warm bear hugs to each of you.
Sometimes the Lord gives me an article topic by illuminating patterns and themes in my personal and/or vocational environment, together of which is pretty vast. Within the last few months numerous people I know have needed or desired new living situations. What is abnormal is the number of people needing or wanting this, all clustered at the same time, with varying degrees of urgency or conviction. Then, as my sweetest friend the Holy Spirit often does, following in the manner of the Son, He spoke into the issue in the form of a question. Such revelatory questions are potent with wineskin-expanding or wineskin-bursting meaning. Regarding the housing needs and desires of multiple people around me, the Holy Spirit asked me: "Does God owe you a house?"
Does God Owe You a House?
An omniscient Superbeing does not ask questions for information. He asks questions to make us explore a thing, to jam our programming, to lovingly menace our ignorance or immaturity, to insinuate a reality we have not known, and 10,000 other reasons.
I perceived certain belief patterns among these fidgety house-hunters in my life: they believed God would provide a place for them, and, they were not entirely sure why they believed that ("God is a good Father" was the most common premise), and, they were not sure how desirable the provided place would be (a low-income place versus a lovely suburban five-bedroom versus an exurban mansion with all the above). In other words, they all believed God to be a provider of life's basic necessities, but a fascinating secondary question lingered: how meager or extravagant will that provision be? I will answer that and other questions related to the housing of God's friends.
Baseline Theology on Supernatural Housing
On any subject, we always begin by establishing Scripture's baseline truth. What does Scripture say is the norm, the typical, the standard procedure in God's kingdom? We do not lunge ahead into exceptions, anomalies, or potentialities above the baseline, we start with what the Word says is true most of the time.
God's Obsession with a New House
Ever notice how God constantly wants a new house? House #1 is in Heaven. Then He creates Earth and wants a home there too, so He tells Israel to build Him a house (Ex 25:8). That house was only temporary, so He inspires David and Solomon to build Him a new house (1Chr 28:10,11,19). That house, too, was only temporary, so He prepares a human body as His new house (Heb 10:5, Jn 2:19-21). That house, too, was only temporary, so He creates a born-again community, and each individual in it, as His new houses (Eph 2:22). These houses, too, are only temporary, so He will merge His heavenly home with His people on earth and the living arrangement will finally be final (Rev 21:1-3).
Rest, Intimacy, & Resource Management
Why does God need all these houses? Amazingly, for the same three reasons we need a house. He wants a resting place, whatever that means. He wants an intimate place with us, hidden and shielded from influences outside the house. He wants a staging area to store, organize, and prepare His resources for His purposes. All three of these reasons are stated explicitly in Psalm 132:13-17.
God, who is more practical than we ever give Him credit for, knows His friends also need a resting place, a place for relational intimacy, and a staging area for the resources He has given us.
Supernatural Housing, With Conditions
This leads us to one of the earliest statements in the Word about supernatural housing. God is speaking here to Israel right before their conquest of the promise land. Deuteronomy 6:10,11 (ESV): ...great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant...
If we retrofit this passage back into Leviticus, we see why God discussed houses and house issues so much in that book. He expected no one to be homeless, and offered this grand ideal in Deuteronomy 15:4 (ESV): But there will be no poor among you; for the LORD will bless you in the land... Yet, as with so many of God's grand ideals, there were conditions (v5): ...strictly obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all this commandment...
Interestingly, a few verses later (v7-11), God acknowledged some people would become poor, even homeless. Some individuals would not do all things God's way, and thus, would descend into poverty and grim living conditions.
What we see, then, from these early passages is a baseline theology of supernatural housing. The norm in God's kingdom is for everyone to "strictly obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all this commandment", and consequently, enjoy His housing blessings. The exception or anomaly is the one who does not strictly obey the Voice or carefully apply kingdom concepts, and consequently, descends into poverty and unacceptable living conditions.
"My People will Live in Peaceful Dwelling Places"
Maybe the most beautiful housing promise in all of Scripture is Isaiah 32:18-20. It is what every human dreams about deep down, domestically speaking. Here it is in the NIV:
My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
in secure homes,
in undisturbed places of rest.
Though hail flattens the forest
and the city is leveled completely,
how blessed you will be,
sowing your seed by every stream,
and letting your cattle and donkeys range free.
This promise also comes with conditions, stated in verses 15-17, which we will look at in a bit.
The House of the Righteous
The Spirit, writing through Solomon, spoke multiple proverbs about "the house of the righteous". (All ESV, all underlines mine.) Proverbs 3:33 says, The LORD's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous. 12:7 says, The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand. 14:11 says, The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish.
The house of the righteous will be blessed, will stand, and will flourish. The condition: being consistently righteous before the Lord in heart, habit, and life structure.
Also, realize these are proverbs. A proverb is something that is true most of the time, but allows for exceptions and anomalies. In all these Old Testament passages we see a baseline truth emerge: God provides housing (and blesses that housing) for those among His people who satisfy His conditions.
New Testament Corroboration
All the aforementioned concepts were spoken to Israel within the Mosaic covenant. Are they repeated in the New Testament and applied to Christians? Yes. And with even more expansive language. Jesus said in Mark 10:29,30 (ESV, underline mine):
Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life."
Jesus reveals here a critical new condition to God's housing program. He suggests we may have to let go of a previous house/land before God gives us "...a hundredfold now in this time, houses...lands..." If and when the Lord chooses to apply this condition, it demands unprecedented faith and sacrifice on the part of the worshiper. Like the rich young ruler, many Christians never enjoy such housing above and beyond the baseline because they cannot let go of their current living situation, regardless of how unsatisfactory or sentimental or lavish it might be. In general, God does not let go of what is in His hand until we take a faith risk and let go of what is in ours.
God, Who Richly Provides Us with Everything to Enjoy
Paul's language on this matter is like Jesus', expansive and omnibenevolent. He says in 1Timothy 6:17 (ESV, underline mine): As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. This verse is a reiteration of Psalm 84:11 (ESV): ...the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
All these verses, from early in Biblical history to late in the New Testament, seem to present the same baseline truth: God provides housing, and blesses that housing, for those among His people who satisfy His conditions. Those who do not satisfy His conditions struggle unnecessarily and painfully in living conditions or arrangements that are not God's best or healthiest.
Supernatural Housing is Conditional
Every scripture we looked at on God's housing had conditions attached. You may not have noticed or fully accept or rightly interpret the conditions, but they are there and they must be satisfied. Let's document those conditions and form conclusions.
Verse 4 presents the grand ideal that "there should be no poor [homeless] among you". Verse 5 presents the conditions (ESV): ...strictly obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all this commandment...
Strictly obey His personal voice to you and carefully work Biblical concepts. Depending on your level, you may have to be extra diligent to learn both.
Verses 18-20 present that wonderful housing promise. Verses 15-17 present the conditions (NIV):
...till the Spirit is poured on us from on high,
and the desert becomes a fertile field,
and the fertile field seems like a forest.
The LORD's justice will dwell in the desert,
his righteousness live in the fertile field.
The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;
its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.
Before we ever get to the housing promise (v18-20), we read of the Spirit working with Israel/us to transform what is a desert into something fertile and flourishing (v15). God is more concerned about transforming what is dry and dead in your personhood than He is about your next house. Priorities. Should you bring those deserts in your personhood into a lovely dwellingplace? The inner-outer mismatch would be more distressing than you realize.
Verse 16 says "the LORD's justice will dwell in the desert" and "his righteousness will live in the fertile field". This is astounding. Before God gets to where you will live, He tells you where He wants His justice and righteousness to live! He wants these ideals to find a home in both your desert and your fertile places. Is there someone you are denying justice to? Is there a situation, past or present, in which you need to respectfully pursue justice for yourself? Is there an area in which you are not living in consistent righteousness? Verse 16 parallels other verses like Psalm 84:11 and Matthew 6:33. Ask Him. Then cooperate with what He illuminates.
Verse 17, one of my all-time favorite scriptures, says, "The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever." What good is a lovely home if you do not have peace, quietness, and confidence inside? You would use that home as an idol, as an unhealthy bunker from the outside world, or as a showy and boastful trophy. You would not be able to truly rest and enjoy that home because you have not matured into the inner peace and quietness from a successful sanctification process. Verse 17 parallels 3John 2 perfectly. We prosper in our souls before we prosper anywhere else. Priorities. First things first.
What area of your personhood is dry and dead, needing an outpouring and special work of the Spirit to transform into something flourishing (v15)? How do justice and righteousness need to find a home in your life (v16)? Where do you need consistent peace, quietness, confidence inside (v17)?
Here Jesus attaches an unsettling condition to God's advanced or bonus housing program. He suggests we might have to let go of a previous living situation before God gives us "...a hundredfold now in this time, houses...lands..." If and when the Lord chooses to apply this condition, it requires great faith and sacrifice on our part. Many Christians never enjoy housing above and beyond the baseline because they cannot let go of their current living situation, regardless of how grim or sentimental or lavish it might be. If and when God chooses to apply this condition to you, cooperate and suffer in His arms. He will not let go of what is in His hand until you let go of what is in yours.
You Get The Idea
There are other scriptures we could look at, but you get the idea. If we walk very, very closely with God every day, staying close to His side through alone-time worship, prayer, and Bible study, He will illuminate the conditions that apply to us individually. It will stretch (or shatter) your pride, comfort, rigid expectations, personality structures, family idols, cultural assumptions, and other things. But, if you die to yourself and do Deuteronomy 15:5 to the very end--strictly obey the voice of your God and be careful to do all the commandment (Biblical concepts)--you will find yourself entering dimensions of supernatural housing many Christians only fantasize and complain about.
Trailer? Apartment? Small House? Mansion?
God's housing provision is flexible. It possesses a range of potential, from basic baseline provisions to above and beyond. This is why one Christian, who depends on Jehovah-Jireh, can be living in a trailer He provided, while another Christian, who also depends on Jehovah-Jireh, lives in a multimillion dollar home He provided also. Is God unfair? Never. Understand the workings of God produce 30, 60, and a 100-fold results based on a person's (1) season, (2) level, and (3) conditions satisfied, all of which are difficult to know by observation alone.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 says (Young's Literal Translation), To everything -- a season, and a time to every delight under the heavens. Throughout my thirty years of born-again life I have lived in all kinds of dwellingplaces and living situations. Some of those places were rewards for aspects of my relationship with God, or, satisfying specific illuminated conditions. Other places, however, had a targeted seasonal purpose. Maybe the Lord wanted me to spiritually invest in a roommate, like Elisha and the prophetic students who lived with him (2Ki 6:1,2). Maybe He wanted me to be alone in a place so I could heal or grow or study in some special way. In one upsetting living situation many years ago, God was protecting me from something specific--only later did I discover this.
God's housing is not always a reward every single time. Yes, He will reward according to Mark 10:29,30 and other scriptures, however, we have to stay open and flexible to various "camps" along the way that have an important, sometimes mysterious, purpose.
There are different levels of faith (Romans 1:17, "faith to faith"). There are different levels of strength (Psalm 84:7, "strength to strength"). There are different levels of glory (2Corinthians 3:18, "glory to glory"). Different levels of faith, strength, and glory translate into different levels and types of supernatural housing, in the same way different levels of faith, strength, and glory translate into different levels of character, mental health, wisdom, perseverance, risk tolerance, ministerial fruitfulness, and so on. This is a relatively simple spiritual algorithm that is often underrecognized.
Conditions satisfied also translate into different levels and types of housing. In 2Corinthians 9:6, Paul said whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly and whoever sows bountifully will reap bountifully. Many Christians are satisfying only parts of God's Word, the parts that do not require too much time, energy, investment, sacrifice, difficulty, or controversy. God recognizes and rewards what they are obeying (like the letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor), but He does so proportionate to their degree of obedience (sow sparingly = reap sparingly). Few Christians indeed are careful to keep enlarging their understanding and actionizing of Biblical concepts and conditions (sow bountifully = reap bountifully). In addition to what is in Scripture, the Lord may illuminate specific conditions for you personally. Your perception and fulfillment, or lack of, of those revelatory conditions also translates into different levels and types of housing.
Disparity & Variety
Surely you can see why there is great disparity and variety in the housing experiences of Christians. While most Bible-believing Christians in the West are conservatives and capitalists, it is a shady paradox that many of them expect unconditional freebies from God in the spirit of far-left socialism ("government housing" sound familiar?). I am not a Republican or a Democrat or any political party, I am pointing out the hypocrisy of how many Christians understand conditions and personal responsibility in their politics, but in their spirituality they get grumpy at God for not giving them unconditional freebies...like a nice house without conditions.
In this section I will address What about...? questions, exceptions, anomalies, and other housing scriptures that often confuse.
What about Elijah not having a home? He obeyed God's voice and conditions, and reached a unique level spiritually.
Elijah's homelessness is one of the exceptions to God's housing norm. He lived temporarily by a creek, temporarily with a widow, and temporarily in the desert. Later in his story, just before his rapture, he was possibly on a hilltop (2Ki 1:9).
We can make a few confident deductions about Elijah. One, Elijah was a rugged man from a rugged territory (Tishbe in Gilead). He was a wild man! He was like Bear Grylls. In Scripture he appears constantly in nature and interacting directly with nature. It is reasonable to infer he preferred a nomadic life outdoors, as opposed to the domestication and minutiae of a normal house. Two, God moved Elijah around constantly. Obadiah even recognized this (1Ki 18:10-12). Three, Elijah would not live out a full lifespan, but would be raptured early (2Ki 2). Thus, Elijah did not need a house. His non-house experience was form-fitted to His personality, calling, and lifespan.
What is interesting, however, is Elisha had a house (2Ki 5:9, 6:32). Elisha was Elijah's successor with a double measure of his anointing. Even more interesting is the fact that Elisha's house was larger than normal. It was large enough to accommodate and show hospitality to the elders of Samaria (6:32). It was even large enough to accommodate a prophecy school, but as the school grew, eventually they had to build a separate meeting place (6:1,2).
Elijah was an exception, Elisha was the norm.
What about Jesus statement, "the Son of Man has no place to lay his head"?
Jesus had a home of some type in Capernaum. We are not told if He built it (He was a carpenter), bought it (with the enormous gifts from the Magi, which is entirely misrepresented in modern western Nativity scenes), rented it, or borrowed it. Matthew 4:13 says (ESV), And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali. Mark 2:1 says (ESV), And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. John 1:39 says (ESV), ...So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day...
Here are the mentions of "the house" (as it was called) at Capernaum: Mathew 9:28, 13:1,36, Mark 2:1, 9:28,33, 10:10.
We are given no direct descriptive details about this house, however, through certain details in the Mark 2:1-12 story, we can see Jesus' home was larger as opposed to smaller. Verse 1 says, "And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home." Verse 2 says, "...many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door". Verse 4 says around five people could not get to Jesus because the crowd was too thick (so they made that famous hole in the roof). There was even room for Jesus' enemies in this meeting (v6). Whatever the size of the house, it had to be big enough for a thick crowd such that five grown men could not get through.
The above scriptures tell us Jesus had a home by the sea in Capernaum, launched His ministry from there, and used the house and the beach (Mk 2:13, Mt 4:18-22, 13:1) as His platform. Eventually, though, Jesus would become itinerant full-time, like Elijah, traveling from place to place to place with Jerusalem as His final goal. When He said "the Son of Man has no place to lay his head", He was referring to that particular phase of His life--the full-time national itineracy ending at Jerusalem. Even still, the statement is a hyperbole (intentional linguistic exaggeration for effect), because He was given a place to rest in Martha's home during His travels (Lk 10:38).
This is why it is critical to harmonize and synthesize every relevant scripture on a given subject. Yes, at one time in Jesus' life He was based out of a beach home in Capernaum. And yes, at another time, He was a full-time itinerant with "no place to lay His head", often sleeping in nature like Elijah. Remember the previous subsection entitled Season?
What about Paul's statement in 1Corinthians 4:11 (NASB), "Up to this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed and roughly treated and homeless"?
Here in 1Corinthians 4:11 Paul says he is homeless. But Acts 28:30 says (NKJV), "Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him."
Was he homeless or living in a rental house in Rome? Once again, remember harmony and synthesis when understanding your Bible. These verses harmonize identically to the ones about Jesus. At one time in Paul's life he was homeless, without a place to lay his head. At another time, when he was in Rome, he lived in blessed rental house, hosting visitors and showing hospitality. Remember the previous subsection entitled Season?
What about Hebrews 11:37,38 (ESV), "They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth"?
Persecution and mistreatment are part of the norm for God's faithful people (2Ti 3:12, Rev 1:9). In the same scripture in which Jesus promised hundredfold returns on anything sacrificed, we also find the phrase "with persecutions" (Mk 10:30). Hebrews 11:37,38, therefore, present the general truth that all who live godly in the Lord will experience some degree of persecution.
As for the specific mentions of "destitute" and "wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves", those are extreme exceptions. (As is being "sawn in half" and using animal skins for clothes.) The baseline truth is that all who live godly will experience some persecution, while in extreme exceptions that persecution might intensify into forced destitution or hiding in nature.
I close with various insights and exhortations that will take us even deeper on this subject.
God may be withholding a housing blessing because your fields are not finished.
Proverbs 24:27 says (ESV), Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.
The Spirit, writing through Solomon, tells us to get our fields and outdoor work to a certain level before building (getting) a house. The fields were the food crops, the outdoor work would include animal care, which would mean grazing land. Imagine building a house back then, only to have insufficient food or clothing! God may be withholding a housing blessing from you because your fields simply are not ready. You may not have enough time or money or resources to maintain the house and buy food, clothes, pay your cell phone, pay off your car, get gas, etc.
The personal voice of God leads to the greatest housing blessings.
Deuteronomy 15:4 presents God's grand ideal, that "there should be no poor among you". In the next breath, verse 5, God states, "if only you strictly obey the voice of the LORD". God is welding into one piece of steel the promise to not be in poverty and the requirement of strictly obeying His personal voice. No person living in a cardboard box on Skid Row ever said, "I strictly obeyed the voice of my Lord and this is where it ultimately led me."
In my adult life, the greatest housing blessings I experienced came from the voice of my Lord speaking something specific to me. It may have been an insight, a foresight, a command, a strategy, a condition, a relationship to pursue, or a combination of these. But it was the Voice and I had to, one, recognize it, and two, obey immediately and fully. Think of God telling Jeremiah to buy land while the Babylonian army was besieging Jerusalem. It was irrational and bizarre, but he recognized the Voice and obeyed it. (See Jeremiah 32.) Think of God telling the exiles to build houses and make babies in Babylon. It was irrational and bizarre, but they recognized the Voice and obeyed it. (See Jeremiah 29:5,6.) God knows the shortest routes and shortcuts to the best dwellingplaces, and He will reveal them if you walk close enough with Him every single day and grow in His personal voice.
Happiness in your tent precedes promise land housing.
Deuteronomy 33:18 (ESV, underline mine) says, ...Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out, and Issachar, in your tents.
Deuteronomy was given and written as Israel was encamped on the plains of Moab right before entering the promise land. This verse, then, is telling the tribe of Issachar to rejoice in their tents before entering the promise land and gaining houses they did not build (6:10,11). See the message? We need to be happy in our tents--where we are right now--before God advances us into more desirable promise land housing. This is simply a Deuteronomy version of Philippians 4:11,12, where Paul said he is happy no matter the circumstances, whether in a tent waiting on the plains of Moab or in promise land housing filled with good things.
Even into the post-apocalyptic world God is still wanting to provide supernatural housing.
Housing is such a sweet blessing from God, and He is so sweet in wanting to provide it for His faithful people, that even in the post-apocalyptic world He is still doing it! In Isaiah 54:3 He says (NASB), ...your descendants will possess nations and will resettle the desolate cities. This is a reference to the Millennium, when the decimated and desolate planet (because of the Great Tribulation and the events of Revelation) will have to be repopulated and rebuilt. God says here He will once again give reborn and converted Israel cities and houses they did not build. In 65:21, also referring to the Millennium, God says (ESV): They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. His special blessing will be on the (re-)building housing projects of His people.