*I started writing this article October 27, 2011, and am completing it now, 610 days later. I hope the thought flow will still make sense*
A typical renting Filipino would, given a choice, rather own a house. A good number of my batch mates (friends near my age) have already “invested” in lands, or are already putting up houses, or are paying for them.
Indeed, “bahay at lupa” is still a big part of that “Filipino Dream”. One just needs to look at his own payslip to see how much our culture emphasizes house ownership. We have a whole government office dedicated to, among other things, housing loans. Currently, we also have a surplus of condominiums sprouting all over the metropolitan landscape.
Is it really better to own than rent? What can we learn from the word of God?
Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”-Matthew 8:20
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. – John 14:2
Both of our pastor-authors in church are advocates of rent-instead-of-own when it comes to the issue of housing. Given that Jesus and most of the apostles sacrificed having permanent earthly dwellings for the sake of mobility and the assurance of a permanent heavenly dwelling, it wouldn’t be far off for us to conclude that owning property is not considered as a basic necessity on the same level as food and clothing.
On top of that, the apostle Paul lived in prison(s) for a large fraction of his born-again life. And so did the apostle John, who was exiled in Patmos until his presumed death. In the Old Testaments, the priests from the tribe of Levi were not allowed to own lands, because “the Lord is their inheritance”:
8 At that time the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister and to pronounce blessings in his name, as they still do today. 9 That is why the Levites have no share or inheritance among their fellow Israelites; the LORD is their inheritance, as the LORD your God told them.)
Between that and the fact that New Testament believers are considered as a “royal priesthood”, everything seems to sum up or point towards a preferential option against the ownership of terrestrial properties.
Is it then bad to own a piece of land, or a house and lot? Categorically, no. What’s bad is when we acquire a horrible fixation for owning real property. If you don’t own a house but will do everything to eventually obtain one, then, there might be something amiss. If you do own one but can’t part with it because you are too attached to the security (literal and because of its asset value), then, there is also something amiss.
On the other hand, the fixation to rent a place with a certain standard of living that is by any means not simple is also an indicator of attachment to this world.
So, what is the bottom line? Whether you rent or own, do it all for the Glory of God. Look forward more on the the house that Jesus is preparing for us, than the houses you see being sold at exorbitant prices. If you have a roof over your head, be thankful. If you have none, be thankful that you can share in the suffering of Jesus, the saints, and the Israelites.