When my wife and I moved into our current home 19 years ago, we decided to hang onto our prior house and rent it out. Since then, land-lording has provided plenty of teachable moments, none more useful and relevant to me than the lesson of the difference between management and ownership.
The distinction between them seems pretty clear, right? To rent a property means to occupy and manage it with limited rights; to own it is to enjoy the unrestrained right of ownership. But you might be surprised how hard it is for some people to get the difference.
It’s a difference spelled out plainly in the rental agreement. The Renter lives in the house, has discretion to make minor changes, and is obliged to check with the Owner before attempting any major changes to the property. The Owner makes ultimate decisions regarding additions or renovations, and retains final authority in all matters regarding the property. In the end, the Renter answers to the Owner for the way she or he has managed the house, and will be fined or refunded accordingly.
I think that’s reasonable. I want our tenants to enjoy the place, so I respect their individual tastes. A few replanted things in the yard, maybe a little interior painting, who cares? It’s theirs; I want them happy. But when it comes to lines clearly drawn in the contract, I expect them to remember they occupy a dwelling they don’t own, and that they answer to the owner for how they manage the property. After all, no one put a gun to their head forcing them to sign the lease. They agreed on who’s who and what’s what, and I expect the terms to be honored.
The takeaway is a reminder: I manage a property – my body – which is not my own. Paul’s writing on this is clear:
“What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
That, too, is reasonable. I’m a tenant whose Owner has given him a place to enjoy, and He graciously allows for my individual tastes. The way I dress, my musical preferences, what I eat, how I cut my hair, all are pretty much my calls. But when it comes to lines clearly drawn in the contract, I’m expected to remember I occupy a dwelling I don’t own, and that I answer to the owner for how I manage the property:
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)
After all, no one put a gun to my head forcing me sign the lease. I agreed, when I was born again and gave myself to Him, on who’s who and what’s what, and He expects the terms to be honored.
So today let’s walk in the liberty of tenants who’ve been given the pleasure and honor of stewarding these bodies, grateful for the discretion we’re given to accommodate our tastes, and respectful of the lines drawn around our thoughts, words and actions. When we see a world saying “yes” to what He’s called us to say “no” to (and we will see that today, no doubt) let’s keep in mind that current trends and common practices have little to do with our decision making processes. We answer to a higher authority.