I live in a shed.
It's not as exotic as it sounds; it's an insulated sleep out. At one point in its life it was a dingy garden shed, forgotten about in the corner of an old lady's garden, buried in pine needles. But now it's my bedroom, windowed, pink-batted and plastered inside. It is just another room, although missing an interior hallway, in what is by all accounts a pretty nice old house.
Yet, at the same time, I find myself living on the verge of a tiny houser's dream. The tiny house movement seems to be gaining momentum through the magic of internet connectivity. After a few YouTube sessions, I am totally ready to get on board!
I love the idea of tiny houses, of affordable home-owning and freedom of movement. I love the idea of a space that is entirely my own—and a space that I can be creative with. I love the idea of space efficiency, of problem solving new and quirky solutions to maximise a minimal space.
Whether or not we're on the same page about tiny houses, I'd suggest that there's something powerful about this movement. It comes against one of the greatest under-acknowledged sins of our time—greed.
In the face of global hunger and child poverty, in the face of obesity and the impending depletion of many of the world's resources, we are still striving for more.
Just one more dollar. Just one more slice. Just one more minute. Just one more purchase.
We're great at justifying taking more than we need. Don't we deserve it? We should treat ourselves—life can be rough. Shouldn't we want to give the best to our families, do the best for our children? And what about guests, they need to be well cared for!
Sin is when good things become god things. Ask yourself—would I be content without this?
I know it's something I struggle with, sometimes. Most of the time I don't even fight it.
Yet the stakes are high.
When we aren't checking our thirst for gain—small gains, respectable, and even good gains—what do we have to lose?
Gain or loss?
Jesus tells a story about people who hear his message and how they respond in the book of Matthew, chapter 13. Using the picture of seeds sown into a field, he warns that the love of things can choke out the word of God within us, making it unfruitful.
Our greed can make us ignore God's word as we chase things that rust or rot or fall apart. That's deadly.
Yet at the same time we're not the only ones who we're affecting when we don't examine the intricacies of our greed. When we turn a blind eye to systems that exploit others, or practices that deprive others, we're part of a bigger web of injustice.
It's a big problem, and it's overwhelming. We just want to live, right? Yet each cup of coffee comes with a complex web of questions. Where did it come from? The growers, the pickers, the sorters, the transport. How do they live? Who pays for this coffee, really?
How do our choices affect the global poor? There's the economic exploitation, definitely, but then there are other issues, like climate change. Poor people have less options, and many live off the land, or from natural resources such as fish.
Yet as we continue to drive our comfortable cars and drink our lattes, we're contributing to climate change, which is wreaking havoc with other peoples' water supplies, or causing flooding to make land inaccessible.
So where does that leave us?
Free to give
Tiny houses are really cool, but they're not the ultimate solution. When it comes down to it, they're another thing that can distract us from God as we chase after that lifestyle. But then, everything can over-inflate to the exclusion of God.
The only solution is Christ. When He is the centre of our lives, we learn more and more of what it is to be self-sacrificial, like Him. Jesus knew what it was to have everything yet He gave it up, stepping into poverty and ultimately tasting God's judgement for us.
Jesus, on the cross, made a way for us to be free from greed, and free from the need to compensate for it. Because of Christ we can say no to taking more than we need, and also say no to feeling like we need to give up every good thing in God's creation.
What do we do with that freedom?
Let's take as a shining example Christ's gracious generosity.
Let's learn to consider godliness with contentment to be great gain, by God's Spirit.
Let's consider how we can choose to bless the least of these.
And who knows? Maybe we'll all live in tiny houses as well!
Matthew Joils is Christchurch based artist. He is passionate about mission and sustainability.
Matthew Joils’ previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/matthew-joils.html