After a four-month stay in temporary housing after our move across the country last summer, my family has purchased a delightful house where we hope to reside for many years.
Through all the house hunting, negotiating, inspecting, repairing, and moving, I’ve realized that many of us invest significant amounts of time and money to obtain structures that are relatively feeble—they could easily be destroyed by something as simple as a strong storm or flame from an unattended candle. Given this, why do we feel it is so important to find the “right” house?
I believe it is because most of us don’t view our houses (or apartments, condos, etc.) simply as shelters. We view them as our homes. They are the settings where we raise our children, grow old with our spouses, and make memories.
What specific characteristics transform our physical domiciles into homes?
The characteristics of a home
- The presence of family. Back when my husband and I were engaged, he learned that his employer was transferring him to a project on the other side of the country. He asked me how I felt about this. Though I was deeply disappointed to have to move, I told him that I was marrying him, not a geographic location. Likewise, our homes should be tied to our families, not to physical buildings or particular cities. God places us in families to meet several of our needs, including our needs for companionship (Genesis 2:18-22, Psalm 68:6a). Subsequently, when we are with our families, we are home.
- A restful atmosphere. We are often surrounded by pressure, hurriedness, and chaos when we go out into our communities and workplaces. The home, on the other hand, should be a place of rest and refreshment (Isaiah 32:18). By keeping clutter to a minimum and communicating respectfully, we can foster a peaceful, restful environment.
- The practice of hospitality. The home shouldn’t just be a place of rest for our families—it should be a place of comfort and rest for strangers, refugees, and friends. Over and over throughout the Bible we see examples of hospitality in the home (Genesis 24:23-31, Genesis 19:2-3, Luke 5:27-31). We were once strangers and aliens who were taken in by God (Ephesians 2:19), so offering hospitality to others is the least we can do to share His love with others!
- A cultivation of learning. Our homes are the chief settings where we should impart practical and spiritual knowledge to our children. In Deuteronomy 6:6-9, the Word of God explicitly instructs us to teach God’s commands as we go about everyday activities in and outside of the home: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” It’s wise for us to teach practical knowledge and skills (manners, cooking, budgeting, etc.) in this same fashion.
- A pursuit of holiness. The home should be a place where we are sheltered from temptation to sin. We’re human, of course, so there will always be some temptation, but we can make concerted efforts to protect our families against the negative influences of things like inappropriate movies, books, and TV shows (Joshua 24:15b). We can also go on the offensive against sin by praying for our families, having family devotions, and making our homes places where thankfulness dwells.
- Noise. Most homes are anything but quiet. Sometimes they are filled with laughter and sometimes they are filled with crying. I can’t image any setting more appropriate for both than the home.
- The presence of special knickknacks, furniture, and heirlooms. Though our possessions are unimportant in the big picture (Luke 12:15), it’s impossible for me to think of my home without thinking of the items that fill it: my beloved mismatched furniture, the serving dishes that were my grandmother’s before her death, the coffee table that got scratched during our recent move, the curtain I sewed for my daughter before she was born, etc. Though they lack eternal significance, these are important because they help create a comfortable environment for our families today.
- Dings and flaws. Many of the possessions I just mentioned are dinged or scratched. Many of our families are dinged and scratched, too. Things like hurtful words, untrustworthy actions, and divorce cause these flaws in our families. The home should be a place where we—dings and all—can be comfortable, heal, and grow to be better than we are currently.
Whether you rent or own your home, it is a temporary dwelling that can merely reflect the eternal home we will one day enter (2 Corinthians 5:1). Let’s enjoy our homes, but not fill them with the treasures we should be storing up in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). When we celebrate in them, let’s remember the celebration that is to come at the end of the age. When we welcome strangers and friends, let’s make sure they feel the love of the Lord.
This is a lot to take in, but it sure inspires me to be faithful in my approach to maintaining my home! What do you think? What makes a house a home?