Does it seem reasonable to pay $879.00 a month in mortgage, taxes and insurance for a $40,000 house? Is it wise to borrow down payment money when you hold outstanding student loans? How do you feel about spending thousands of dollars on remodeling projects in said home with a combined household income of about $30,000?
If your answers are in the, “No way,” “That’s completely looney,” range, I believe you are correct. Unfortunately, Ken and I did this in 1981. We possessed no down payment whatsoever and the interest rates, at the time, were 16 ½ %. Yes, 16 ½ %. Even with a student loan in the mix we still plowed ahead with our first home purchase. Why, why, why did we choose such a misguided path?
The answer is threefold, peer pressure, envy and lack of counsel. Every other young couple in our new, first church lived in their own house. The fact that they entered the working world and saved down payments, while we were in grad school, we waved off. How would it look for us, a pastor in a prestigious church, to remain in a rental?
We love dogs, landscaping, and interior design. Our campus apartment certainly didn’t allow any of that for three years, but it didn’t matter. All our friends lived in student housing also. Entering the real world brought joy and disappointments. After each evening in another young couple’s home, we returned to our rental house slump-shouldered and dissatisfied. Generating enthusiasm about everyone else’s home improvement projects just hurt. We longed to do the same.
We set our minds to buying a house without seeking counsel from people I think we instinctively knew would advise against it, like our parents. The advice we followed came from people who did not know the true picture of our finances. They were happy to cheerlead us along. We did not seek truth but sought affirmation for what we desired.
In this matter, we fit the profile of people who Paul described to Timothy. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” (2 Tim. 4:3 ESV) Anytime we turn our backs on sound wisdom, we find ourselves on side streets, delaying us from fulfilling our destiny.
When we moved from our first church to the second, we sold that house at a tremendous loss. It took us two years to pay off the remaining debt. I believe the Lord allowed the sale to land that way so we might never make such a poor stewardship mistake like that again. Pain is a wonderful teacher.
Our current culture treats truth like a disease that needs to be eradicated. It is eerily like the way ancient Israel treated many of their prophets. Uncomfortable truths about repentance and coming destruction didn’t get warm receptions from the Jewish nation. Most true prophets were ignored, rejected and threatened with death. People liked the happy, happy, false prophets better.
The dishonest prophets, like the ones Micah describes in his third chapter, told the nation that God was speaking peace, peace, peace. Fabulous news for folks living in sin, making one stupid, destructive decision after another! They thought they could carry on their immoral lifestyles and still live in peace. That’s why we loved the scant advice we received also. We could break all reasonable rules of prudent personal finance and still own our own home. Perfect, not.
If I choose to reject a truth, at some point I will face the consequences. Truth is a Person who loves me. He sent His Son, who is THE way and THE truth. (John 14:6) He gifted us with the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth. (John 16:13) He loves us too greatly to allow us to choose destructive paths without experiencing consequential pain. Did Ken and I pray about that house? Of course! Did we pray with open hearts and hands, submissive to God’s will being done in our lives? Well…………
Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9) This guy lived alone in a sea of false prophets. Every day he watched his people led astray by liars. Exalting what we want over God’s will can happen in such a subtle way. The clamor of our emotions, expectations and past experiences can dull our hearing for God’s still, small voice. Far too often, Christians miss their destinies to satisfy their desires.
Have you ever taken a side trip away from Destiny Drive onto Stupid Street, like me? How do we stop ourselves in the future? The answer is simple to say, tough to do. The secret is to want the same things God does. When I want God’s, purposes manifested in my life more than anything else, I avoid most idiotic stuff.
How do you know what He wants? Ask Him. I cannot over emphasize the fundamentals of prayer and Bible study. God said, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4.6) Often we don’t know what in the world God wants because we don’t know Him.
My desire is to know Him more intimately today than I did yesterday. How about you?