I have started a series of columns looking at nursery rhymes and what they might offer Christians in the way of godly reflection. Last column we pondered the tenacity of the Itsy Bitsy Spider. Today, I consider the plight of the Old Lady who Lived in a Shoe.
I’m well on my way to achieving the dream! You know, that Great Australian Dream of marriage, a pet, 2.5 kids and a mortgage. I’ve got the marriage and kids part (2 for now). But the pet and the mortgage? As someone who rents a house to live in, the whole package is looking more and more unlikely every year.
Living in a house or a shoe-box?
It’s been cold this week in Sydney, and my house is quite lacking in sensible things like insulation and energy efficiency. It’s reminded me of this nursery rhyme:
There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn't know what to do;
She gave them some broth without any bread;
Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.
As I thought of it, I wondered why the old woman lived in a shoe. I’m guessing it’s because she couldn’t find an affordable, child-friendly place to rent (among other socio-economic factors which lead to older women doing it tougher than ever before. But that’s a whole other post).
Renting is widespread in Australia
Did you know that renters make up a third of residents in Australia? And most of these renters feel insecure in their situation? (You can read more in this ABC article: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-16/how-good-is-renting-in-australia/8275520)
When you read that line, you either nodded in agreement or felt a wave of relief that you’re not one of them.
Why is property all about wealth, rather than homes?
As a renter, I have to say, I’m not a fan of the idea that property has become a means to building wealth. It commodifies what I consider to be a basic human right; safe, comfortable shelter where people can live their lives without fear.
To a landlord, their property is an appreciating asset where the ultimate goal is to make more than they spend. To a renter, the property is their home. Whose view matters more?
A great tenant-landlord relationship makes all the difference
One of the best experiences I had as a tenant was because we had a face-to-face relationship with the landlord. Frank was fantastic and friendly. He wanted to look after us, and in return, we wanted to look after him and his property. We weren’t afraid to bring up any maintenance needs, and, never seeing us as a nuisance, he was only too happy to fulfil his obligation to fix things, and ensure we had a liveable house.
We can honour God as landlords and tenants
As Christians, we have to consider another perspective on our living and investments arrangements. Paul, the apostle wrote that, everything we do is to be done to the glory of God.
So, what does it mean to be a Christian landlord who glorifies the Lord with their resource? And what does it mean to be a renter who glorifies the Lord in their tenancy?
A God-honouring renter will honour their agreement with integrity, pay rent on time, take responsibility for any damage caused and treat the house as if it were their very own.
A God-honouring landlord will also honour their agreement, allow the tenant full, quiet enjoyment of the property without interference, and treat the tenant and house with the most care that they can.
Even Christian landlords and tenants could do better
It’s sad that many fall short of this vision because owning and leasing property becomes more about the dollars than the humans. And it’s sad that many treat the property they live in with disrespect, rather than as if it were their own.
It’s a big issue and I have barely even scratched the surface, let alone the itch I have to tell landlords exactly how they can be the most awesome landlord and have the best relationship with their tenants. So tune in to my next column where I’ll be doing just that.
Sarah Urmston is a follower of Jesus whose current season of life sees her fully occupied by raising two gorgeous young children with her husband Stephen. In moments when time allows for pursuits of the heart, Sarah loves to keep in touch with friends (especially thanks to Facebook), sing and play piano, and enjoy a good cup of tea.
Sarah Urmston's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/sarah-urmston.html