Does Buying a House Make You Happy?

houses

As I drive to my office each day, I pass dozens of stores, banks, restaurants, and other establishments. I usually look at the marquees and signs, just to see if there are any cute or (more likely) cheesy slogans or sayings on them. As a minister, I also get a few ideas from the wording.

Recently, as I drove by a bank, though, I saw words on a marquee that were quite sad. This is a bank that I have some dealings with and usually respect quite highly. The customer service has been good, and the “atmosphere” is usually upbeat and friendly. In talking with a few folks in the bank, I have never felt like I was being “sold” something, but have been taught about products, services, fees, and benefits of the different services offered.

So, when I saw the marquee, I was surprised. It said, “Buy. Build a house. Be happy.”

Now, at first, I wasn’t quite sure what that meant. Honestly, I was looking for the word “or” to be between “buy” and “build,” but it wasn’t there. Maybe that’s what they meant. Or, it could just mean exactly what it says. Buy (anything). Build a house. Be happy.

Does spending money, even on something as substantial as a house, equate to happiness? Sadly, for some people, it does, but that happiness is fleeting. There are many who think that what they have gives definition to their lives, and is the “sum and substance” of life. I have dealt with a few individuals like that, and it is truly sad. They are always describing something they bought, why they bought it, and (often) how much it cost. However, as the conversation continues, it usually turns toward something else they would like to own.

They aren’t seeing the “happiness” brought by this purchase as fleeting, and that’s tragic.

After telling His disciples to be on guard against the sin of covetousness, Jesus stated, “For one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15b). If we do not imbibe these words, we will be trying to buy happiness.

How can we keep from defining happiness by what we purchase or build? Here are 4 suggestions:

1. Value People More than Possessions.

Usually, the same people who stand and talk about all they own rarely have strong relationships with other people. They might have a few “buddies,” but that’s about it. They have forgotten that building true friendships and strong relationships have a far greater value than any house, car, boat, outfit, collection, or anything else they might have. Spend serious time with people getting to know them and investing in the relationship. You won’t regret it.

2. Understand that Things Will Perish.

All that “stuff” that you saved up for and bought? It’s all going away some day (read 2 Peter 3:8-13). Even if it makes it to the end of the world, it is still just stuff. Jesus said that the treasures of this world are things that moth and rust often corrupts and that can also be stolen by thieves (Matthew 6:19). We may not want to believe that description, but deep down, we know it to be apt. How “happy” are you, when you consider that your stuff will not last forever?

3. Use What Things We Have to God’s Glory.

All that being said, it is not sinful to have “things” (so long as those things don’t “have” us!). When we look at what we own, do we see ways we can utilize it to God’s glory? That house? It can be used to invite over someone who is hurting, or who needs to study the Bible. Your car? It can be used to go visit a person who is shut in, or to travel to a Bible study. Your TV can be used for more than just movies and ball games. You can use it to watch religious programming, or to use Bible studies that are on DVD. We need to change how we view our stuff.

4. Be a Giver.

The best way to get out of the mindset that buying and owning makes us happy is to have a heart of generosity. You will never be so happy as you are when you give. Is it any wonder that the word “miserable” begins with “miser”?

So, with all due respect to a good bank, I’m going to find happiness in something other than just buying and building earthly things. I’m going to find true joy in building a relationship with Christ and His people.

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14 Comments
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  1. Hi Adam–Great post! You’re spot on about how we tend to define ourselves by our possessions. To the degree that we do, we’re allowing our desires to be determined by the world. Christians often see possessions as a blessing, which they can be, but it’s equally likely that they can be a curse that drive us farther from God. The possessions become an end in themselves and we get caught up comparing ourselves with our friends and neighbors. None of that should ever matter, but hey, we’re human!

    Due to a career crash that was becoming more obvious all the time, my wife and I decided to sell our house and move to a rental house. We had young kids in tow so this was no small move. To say that “society” disapproved of our decision was an understatement (we live in a suburban area where there apparently are “rules” about such things).

    I’m not going to say that the transition was easy, but it was the right thing to do. We DID adjust to a different lifestyle and found that you can find happiness and still walk with God regardless of your external circumstances. In fact I’d say the walk was even more meaningful.

    There were all sorts of little (and not so little) miracles along the way. By a couple of quirks of fate and bureaucracy, our kids didn’t have to leave their schools even though we were out of district. And as it turned out, the housing crash started shortly after we sold, and while we didn’t get top dollar for the house, we were able to ride out the crash as spectators having no equity at risk. I see those as blessings from above, and when they happen you know you aren’t walking alone.

    But the real point is that even after you lose cherished possessions, God is still with you, making life worth living and opening new doors of opportunity. We truly don’t ever need to cling to things. Letting go is a major part of the Christian walk, and I can say from first hand experience that God will meet you on what ever level your on–even if it isn’t as “high” as the one you were on before.

  2. Of course just buying a house won’t make you happy. But, I will say that my husband have been happy in our home.

  3. I would argue that yes, buying a house has boosted my family’s happiness. For the past 8 years, I have lived in 2-bedroom or smaller apartments. That becomes difficult when you add small children to the mix (I have two, ages 2 and under).

    In our apartment, no one slept well. No one napped well. In our last apartment, we didn’t have a really safe place to play outside so we’d have to go to a park or something. It didn’t get a lot of natural sunlight and it was a gloomy place to be.

    But we bought our first house this year and now the kids have a safe place to explore the outdoors, the baby can nap mostly undisturbed, and most of all, my husband and I feel finally settled. We can put down roots here. We got rid of our moving boxes.

    True, we could have that in a nice rental situation perhaps. But for our family, buying a house really did boost our quality of life and our happiness.

  4. I bought my current house 3 years ago and I kind of regret it although my wife still believes we did the right thing back then. First of all, the mortgage is a big burden on us where we have to be frugal to survive month after month. Second of all, the maintenance is just too much work and takes a lot of my time and energy. Third, there are just too many areas to fix and it is driving up our spending. Many times, I feel like I did not meet the standards of being the ultimate smart spender of money when I think about my current house. I should have saved money by not buying a big house that is causing such a burden. I hope others will learn from my mistake.

    • Ultimate,
      My family is in the same [house]boat. Our big mortgage is a big burden. Upgraded before the crash. We want to downsize, but we are underwater in our mortgage. Feeling stranded. I now advise my friends, who are considering upgrading, to budget for a monthly mortgage no greater than 1/3 of their monthly net income. Wish someone had so advised me.

  5. It is nice to have a house but you can be happy without owning a house. As far as “stuff” I have learned that all that “stuff” is not as important to me as it used to be. I guess I realized this as I got older and both of my parents are gone. Buy a house only if you can afford the payments, HOA and insurance and still have some extra money each month instead of just barely squeaking by.

  6. I agree with every point you made. How we view and use our money is a reflection of what’s in our soul. I teach the same principles you outline here in my Celebrating Financial Freedom course. We all have to remember that ultimately whether we are rich or poor, whether we have a lot of stuff, a home, or whatever, we can’t be truly happy and at peace without a relationship with the one that created us.
    I am a fellow Nashvillian and I encourage you to keep up the great writing!

    “When you help me with money, you help the world prosper.”- J.M. DuMont

  7. ST from Lansdowne,PA

    I have lived in apartments for most of my adult life. I cannot see myself owning a home because you must have money for emergencies (ie, water heater, roof, windows and so on).
    My present apartment is about a mile from my job. I can walk and a grocery store is right up the road.
    I feel very blessed.
    Thank you for the conversation. It reminds me that I need to take a closer look at those in need.

  8. My boyfriend and I just moved into our new house we are renting (we just spent our first night here, sleeping in the living room because we don’t even have the bedroom set up yet). Even though the place was a disaster, we jumped at it, because of the location and the walk-out basement with it’s own bathroom that we can rent out. Anyway, the owner who lived here had 4 dogs, 5 cats, rabbits loose in the house, birds, lizards, etc., so the (20 year old) carpet was obviously unsalvageable. They said we could do whatever we want, so we tore out the carpet, and spent hours pulling all the staples, replaced it with cheap scrap carpet from menards, installed a door on the (almost) finished bedroom in the basement, washed all the walls and floors, the insides of the cupboards, scrubbed the deck, which also smelled like dog, and painted the stairs to the second floor. We have put many hours into this house, making it our home and I have thought to myself the entire time how nice it would be to get to enjoy the results of my work for the rest of my life. At this point owning a home is not an option, so we settled for landlords who give us free rein, and relatively cheap rent. But knowing that I’m paying their mortgage and doing all these improvements on their house definitely does not make me happy. The house has actually been for sale for over a year and I’m afraid if we make it too nice, someone will just buy it out from under us :/

  9. michelle

    Good article and comments! We have just made the last payment on our house after 20 years but you know what? So much now needs redoing! So we don’t yet have the windfall we were looking forward to. But the best part for me is knowing I don’t have to pay (Lord willing) rent or a note when I’m 60, 70, 80….keep chipping away at the principle….the last payment will come though it may seem forever away.

  10. Adam,

    You remind me of the book of Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house [God's temple] remains a ruin?” For millennia, people have been focusing on building and adorning their own homes rather than other highly important things (like honoring God).

  11. Adam,
    Thanks for your perspective. Looking forward to a time when the balance of God’s Plan will afford “everyone” a home of their own and vines/fig tree. Consistent with Zec 3:10 In that day,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘Everyone will invite his neighbor Under his vine and under his fig tree.
    Wm

  12. I am grateful for all that I do have, a loving family, good health, a roof over my head and food on the table. Thank you for the very thoughtful post.

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