To what degree can we, as Christians, care about our home’s appearance without crossing over into materialistic territory?
It’s not something I go around announcing on the regular, but the husband and I aren’t really “let’s buy a house and settle down” type of people.
Shocking, I know – especially when you consider that a large portion of what I blog about is our house renovation.
For years we disliked the idea of tying ourselves down with debt, even if it was done for very legitimate reasons like 1) creating a safe and comfortable home to raise our (future) children or 2) establishing a passive source of income so that less of our time is consumed by the daily grind and, thus, can be re-directed towards (for lack of a better word) morally superior pursuits.
If you happened to read about our decision to buy our abandoned 1930 bungalow back in July of last year, you’ll remember that we weren’t even in the market for a house. Sure, we had acquired some property, but that didn’t necessarily make us materialistic; yes, the renovation would require lots of work and time and resources, but we viewed it as a temporary arrangement, remembering Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens…”
Mind you, I’m using very basic statements to explain a rather drawn-out and complex process of internal evaluation.
Yet with time, through numerous conversations with friends, casual remarks from acquaintances, or even our own self-analysis arose the idea that maybe, just maybe, despite our best intentions, we too, albeit involuntarily, had gotten sucked into the vortex that is the “American Dream.”
Rather than asking about our dreams, aspirations, spiritual struggles or, really, anything else, friends and acquaintances alike wanted to know one thing: “How’s the house renovation coming along?”
Despite our attempts to steer the conversation to other topics, I found myself enjoying sharing about our accomplishments and the struggles along the way – yet all the while noticing an inkling of guilt deep, deep down for experiencing so much joy in the pursuit of something so materialistic.
Subconsciously, I compared my love for renovating and decorating against that of some of my friends and acquaintances – arriving at the false conclusion that their natural disinclination to and detachment from the aesthetic of their homes must surely mean that they were somehow spiritually superior.
But one thing was certain: What had started as a fun DIY project for us to learn from and work on together had, inevitably, begun to consume our lives over the course of the past year – only intensifying my desire to understand how one is supposed to live for and honor God in the context of abundance.
How is one to live for and honor God in the context of abundance?
My question isn’t, exactly, groundbreaking – I know. Life on earth for Christians is a daily struggle of figuring out how to honor God while being completely submerged in a very physical, distracting world – a world where dishes need to be washed, bills need to be paid, errands need to be run, and – gasp! – money needs to be made.
So is there a clear boundary, and if so, where is it?
Returning to the issue at hand, to what degree can we, as Christians, care about our home’s appearance without crossing over into materialistic territory? Is God truly disappointed in my penchant for interior design and the satisfaction I gain from making our house a home? Is investing time and resources into our homes considered “storing up treasures on earth,” against which Matthew 6:19-21 warns us?
Christianity has a very long tradition of critiquing a lifestyle focused on materialism. Our main priority in life should be to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33) – not accumulate the things of this world (Matthew 6:20).
Throughout the Bible, we see many warnings that marriage, a house, career, money, children, hobbies, etc. all have the potential to distract us from our ultimate purpose of honoring God. In other words, if we’re not careful and intentional in how we live our lives, these secondary components can gradually take precedence over God.
So does that mean we should all take an oath of poverty and celibacy, abandon any and all worldly pleasures in order to minimize all distractions that prevent us from honoring God?
Let’s look at marriage, for example.
Apostle Paul encourages those who are single to remain single and devote their lives to the Lord instead, because “An unmarried woman is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world – how she can please her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:34).
In other words, marriage can be a major distraction from living our lives for God.
Even in the famous chapter 31 of Proverbs, we see the “wife of noble character” – literally the standard we as wives should strive for – doing everything from buying fields, planting vineyards, making coverings for her bed and sewing linen garments to sell at the market. I don’t know about you, but to me those concerns sound quite worldly.
But you know what else the Proverbs 31 wife does?
She brings her husband good, not harm. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction. She honors and respects her husband.
There’s the caveat! Her ultimate priority is to honor God, and she does this by carrying out her God-designed role as a wife.
Same principle applies to any other aspect of our life, be it building a career, raising children, decorating our home, taking up a new hobby, etc. These undertakings aren’t sins per se, but they can (and sometimes do!) distract us from our ultimate purpose as Christians. But they can also bring honor to God.
You may be wondering, how can the act of decorating your home honor God?
Going back to Proverbs 31, we see an exemplary role of a wife as designed by God – and guess what? As we previously covered, it involves a whole lot of homemaking – among other things, of course.
The calling of a homemaker is found again in Titus 2:3-5, “[Teach] the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”
Tending to our homes – not only the physical elements, of course, but also the spiritual and emotional atmosphere (Proverbs 24-3-4) – is a wife’s first and foremost calling to ministry and service.
The ministry and service doesn’t stop with our immediate family, though. God calls us to utilize our home for hospitality (Romans 12:13, 1 Timothy 5:10 and 1 Peter 4:9). Inviting the new couple from church over for dinner, hosting a weekend brunch for all the women in your life, asking a friend over for coffee – all of these are examples of ways we can utilize our home to serve others. Granted, stylish and intentional home decor is not an absolute necessity, but we can’t argue that such a setting is more conducive to conversation than, say, one that is uninviting or uncomfortable.
Another way to honor God with our decorating is through the practice of humility.
Let’s go back to the example of inviting the new couple from church over for dinner. Ask yourself, “What motivates me to do so?”
If our motivation is the desire to show off our beautiful, styled home, we’ve lost track of our main priority and given room to pride. If, on the other hand, we want the new couple to feel loved and welcomed, that’s a good indication that our heart lies in the right place.
I will be the first to admit how easy it is to fall into the trap of wanting to show off your home – after all, when you’ve worked so long and hard to restore something so decrepit, you want to share your accomplishments with others.
But I don’t want to be that woman; I don’t want someone else to look at my home – or my marriage, or my career, or my appearance – and feel inadequate about theirs.
A quick and easy way to examine our motives is to evaluate how we feel about having company when our home isn’t in its best shape; maybe the dishes are piled high in the sink, or the kids’ toys have overtaken the majority of the rooms, or our mismatched, thrifted furniture embarrasses you – does our concern with appearance discourage us from being hospitable?
I could go on and on about this topic – clearly – but I want to hear from you!
How do you reconcile your love for decorating with your faith? How do you maintain your main priority of honoring God in the context of abundance? What is your motivation for decorating your home? How do you honor God through your decorating choices?
I’d like to sum up my rather lengthy thoughts for today with a story once related to me:
A stranger was walking down a deserted road one day, when he happened upon a recluse living in the midst of wild animals. The recluse had completely eliminated all worldly distractions in favor of obtaining higher spirituality.
The stranger was very curious to learn more, and coming closer, he struck up a conversation.
The recluse happily shared how content he felt in the wild – free from the things that had previously competed for his attention. He encouraged the stranger to adopt a similar lifestyle.
“Behold the degree of holiness I have achieved,” he said. “The lion dwells with the lamb, and the leopard lies down with the goat, and I in the midst of them. They are not afraid of me, nor I of them; we live in perfect harmony.”
The stranger thought long and hard, and then replied, “That is very impressive,” he paused, “But have you tried living in harmony with other humans?”
The moral of the story is that it is in the midst of the complicated, needy, messy world of flesh where we truly encounter God. To live for His kingdom when you have no outside distractions is easy; it’s the distractions that truly test our faith and ultimately show us where our loyalty lies.
The most comforting of thoughts is that as long as we truly seek His kingdom, the Holy Spirit will guide our decision-making as we attempt to live for and honor God in the context of abundance.