Guestrooms for Jesus

Guestrooms for JesusI’ve probably mentioned this before, and if you haven’t heard it from me, hopefully you’ve had someone in your life who was crazy enough to say it.
In most cities (every one that I’ve actually seen the statistics compared), there are more abandoned housing units then there are homeless. That is to say specifically, there is enough housing for everyone. Of course, the red tape of our society usually prevents this solution from becoming a reality.
Also, in most cities, even if we are extremely conservative with our statistics, there appears to be many Bible-believing church-attending “Christians.” And of those Christians, even with conservative estimates, I would guess there are many more empty “guest bedrooms” in those homes then there are homeless out on the streets.

Even with this reality, we have plenty of excuses as to why my correlation (The “Christians” [who are supposed to practice hospitality, see Romans 12] with Empty Guest Bedrooms : Homeless Ratio) simply is not appropriate or feasible.
“Many homeless have mental conditions, that would make it unsafe for my family.”
“Most homeless have drug and alcohol problems which would put my families lives in danger.”
“And God calls us to protect our family and be wise” [sidenote: Can someone please show me where in the Bible it say that to “protect” our family is a top priority?]

We have within our means the ability to radically live out the Christian calling of caring for the needy and practicing hospitality, and we are content to pass off some lame excuse.
Here’s why it’s lame. Keeping your family (and the people on the street) safe is a wonderful thing, really it is. Mental conditions should be treated, drug and alcohol problems should be controlled, nobody should be hurting or threatening anybody; but what does that have to do with opening your home to someone else?

Let me just cut to the chase. You are to be validated in your concerns. But, now it’s time to problem solve and find a solution for bringing together your desire for the well-being of all, and your calling to radically follow Christ.
If people (including many Christians) can spend thousands of dollars solving the problems of remodeling their outdated bathroom, or upgrading to a state of the art kitchen, then I think we can also put our minds and money to creating homes that can accommodate those who need a place to stay.

Maybe you put an outside door on the guest room and a regular locked door into the house. Or you remodel the office or the space above the garage to have not only a bedroom but a bathroom and a small kitchenette.  Use your imagination, you could go more elaborate or more practical, but look to solve problems rather then make excuses.

Maybe for some it means downsizing their home till it accommodates the basic needs for their immediate family and they then use the freed up additional wealth and resources to contribute to a community that is meeting the needs of the homeless.

Stop making lame excuses that justify your apathy to following Christ call. Instead have some fun and remodel your house (and in doing so open yourself to following Christ in ways you’ve never considered before)!


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23 thoughts on “Guestrooms for Jesus”

  1. that’s some radical (at least to me) ideology. i am not sure if i could take things that far right now. it’s interesting to find a bookend on the *other* side of what i’m willing to do and not do. huh.

  2. I have a friend who is living with a family and they also have a homeless guy in their garage. Hopefully its a nice garage with heat. I’ll have to ask her. This is in Seattle.

  3. Awesome post Ariah. I agree with you. I think people make up excuses so that they can put that “uncomfortable situation” for them out of the realm of possibility. So many people have the resources but aren’t willing to help others. Plus, the idea seems absurd to some people because they don’t think of the homeless as individuals, but rather as a nameless stereotyped group. They should think instead of a single person who lives on the street, who is capable of tears and laughter and moral and immoral thoughts and actions, just like them. It’s time to worry about those who don’t have it as well off as we do.

  4. Definitely challenged as always
    ..have to think on this
    I know i struggle with feeling overwhelmed with how much need there is all over the world and in all kinds of situations,
    like i could never do enough, indeed that is a poor excuse and i know one that goes around alot.
    doing little things, one bit at a time is something i I know i need to be reminded of..and thanks for doing that
    and also to the other people that post on here…
    Wow! you guys are deep.

  5. Man, I wish we lived in the same city! I think we could change the world!

    I think we can change the world where we are and I’m so glad you continue to post ideas like this.

  6. Great post. I so want to not be afraid of opening my home to people that I don’t know. But the mom in me often takes over. With two children under 5, its scary and I know that Jesus doesn’t specifically talk about protecting our children, but my maternal instincts do.

    We love to open our home to people, even letting one person live with us rent free for a year while she did some work here in Seattle and this past year we’ve had two different sets of people with us for different lengths of time (including your friends Ben and Lori) but that next step just scares me. I live in that tension almost constantly – God doesn’t promise that he will keep us, or our children safe – and I don’t like that part. I want my kids to grow up in a home that is open and welcoming to all people…but I want them to grow up too. I struggle, but I guess that is the first step!

  7. I do know of a situation in which a family took a guy in and he molested one of the children, so theology mom’s concerns are valid. I do think that Ariah addressed this when he suggested measures such as locked doors. Perhaps some who have bigger home than they actually need should consider downgrading and using the profits to provide for others. Maybe we all should be selling what we don’t need and sharing it with those who are in need.

  8. Everyone,
    Thanks for the thoughts and honest opinions. Indie, I appreciate you pointing out that I’m suggesting we still keep our concerns in mind.
    I love the idea of being a part of a group of Christ-followers (maybe you folks) who think outside the box and encourage one another to be creative and daring in our attempts to follow Christ.

    I’m going to be a father soon too, and so I’m sure there is plenty more I will learn about what it takes on the emotional level to raise children and live Christ’s call (not that those are mutual exclusive by any means). Maybe those mother’s out there already can lend further insight into what it takes to follow Christ, uniquely as a parent?

  9. Reposted from evoca:

    Really enlightening. My only thought is really that family’s putting themselves at risk for many levels of “unknowns” isn’t an excuse but a legitimate concern. I think the poeticness of your concept has its heart in the right place and in fact is a great guide for real world translation. The thought that came to my mind however is that what if each church in every town built such accomodations as a basic part of their own architecture. I mean forever and a day everyone has been caught up in the symbolic dimensions to the way a church “looks” and functions for worship so why not encourage churches old and new to extend their function into this realm as well? Many many churches have kitchens and such facilities already. This is the inherent reason, purpose and function for “institutions.” The families who you suggest take people in, could actually help fund for such construction and operation instead. This kind of “sharing the burden” would also help to lighten the huge issues that the one or two “mission” or “grace” houses in each city currently undertake. In fact by that comparison, it almost makes churches in and of themselves look like too idle an uninvolved. Plus, a church is like any business — if the market is there and there’s a way to meet the demands — well there will be people to brain it and money to follow. Great thoughts and much work to be done!

  10. reposted from facebook:

    Hey Ariah,

    I think you have a good idea in general but I do have one question/concern. In your blog, you say that there are plenty of Christian, bible-believing families that have extra room in their homes to house people. I am confused because I believe that all people are inherently good whether they are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, etc. Therefore, people in general, whether they are Christian or not should all be willing to help the homeless. I just don’t understand why you correlate helping the homeless with following Christ. I am not a follower of Christ, and I am willing to consider working harder to make our homeless population lower. I guess I feel that sometimes Christians feel that they are so much more loving and important that others….I am not sure how else to work that….so don’t be offended please. Being Christian does not define love, care and help. Being a human does.

  11. while we speak from the perspective of those ‘that have’, we must not forget that from the perspective of those that ‘have not’, (in this case the having is a home)that many homeless folks would not be comfortable to all of a sudden be the ‘guest’ in someone elses home. The idea of all the vacant places in a city being turned into comfortable living conditions for those who can not afford the rent is well worth pursuing for all of us.

    Obvious reasons of insurance and liability cause the first barrier to allowing these buildings to being made available, but persistence and lots of good folks asking lots of questions can make this a real possibility.

    make a few calls and then let’s share the answers we recieve – Who did you call?, what did you ask?, what were you told?

  12. Following on JustShannons comment – in our city, Madison WI we have an organization that is interfaith, in which a group of families spend a week at a time in one church / synogague and then move to another, one week at a time. Church members come each night and prepare meals, play with the kids and provide rides. – is the national organization for this group
    check it out – make it happen – go forth!!

  13. Great thoughts, ariah.
    it seems to me that the main thing holding people back from serving the poor in this way is fear. fear of the unknown, that is.
    in most neighborhoods, the average american is not exposed to anyone of a different socio-economic class than themselves. since we don’t rub shoulders with people different from us, our ignorance leads us to view the poor as a stereotype and apply broad generalizations like “homeless people are dangerous, or homeless people are child molesters” rather than seeing them as unique human beings.
    perhaps the answer then is to get rid of the strangers. what i mean by this, of course, is to get to know a few people in your city who are poor.
    for me, that means moving to a different neighborhood and developing community and doing church among the poor.
    for others it may mean getting to know a panhandler they might pass by every day on their way to work and invite him or her to dinner once or twice a week.
    once we know a PERSON and not just a stereotype, trust and understanding can develop, and this could naturally evolve into opening up your guest bedroom to a friend in need.
    doesn’t sound so scary when you put it that way, does it?

    i am not suggesting we be stupid about this. obviously if you are a single woman you would choose to befriend another woman whom you would be able to open your house to.

    as for churches, i completely agree that church buildings should be places of refuge for those in need, like the monesteries and cathedrals of pre-modern europe.

    my vineyard church in winnipeg (
    is in the poorest part of the city and they are in the process of turning a couple floors of their building into supportive community housing.

    i know of a handful of other churches like this, but shouldn’t it be the norm rather than the exception?

  14. Ariah, great thoughts and comments! As I have mentioned before my wife and I have not only raised our own kids, at a less than average wage but also taken in several people over the years and hosted relatives to boot. Most of these have been positive experiences. It wasn’t convenient. I have also been critical of people who build large homes far above the average standard of living. Suddenly I have found myself just about at the empty nest stage. Just a little over a year ago I had all of my 3 kids at home and just barely room to breathe. We are looking to downsize, be good stewards yet be available to our kids who you never know when might be homeless soon. It is not always as clear cut a call as it might seem. Also taking care of your own family is a biblical precedent, which includes care for parents, grandparents…wow, that is so huge–you could devote a month to that topic. Thanks for raising the subject and offering some practical insights! We have been doing what we can to remodel our home to prepare it to accommodate others.

  15. I love that there are so many “amens” and encouraging voices. I wonder how to harness this energy into action. A lot of you make good points about the barriers and also the resources that are there to make these things a reality.
    In Nashville, I’ve been excited to support the Nashville Homeless Power Project and their “Housing is a Human Right” Campaign. I’ll just include a snippet from a recent email from them about what’s going on in the campaign here:




    SUBJECT: 200 Units for Homeless before you leave office

    *Please send us your letter so we can track them and any response that your receive. Thank you!

    Mayor Purcell, thank you for starting the Mayor’s Commission to End Chronic Homelessness. The commitment to build 1,800 units; 1,000 for chronically homeless, and 800 for homeless families by 2015 is critical to the vitality of our community. Before you leave office please commit to leverage $2.3 Million to help leverage 200 units (1/9 of your commitment) for our homeless community ($7 Million worth of housing). I will be watching the budget hearings and contacting my councilmember but you have the greatest opportunity to make this commitment a reality. I understand that your office and several agencies are supportive of 50 units but this is just not enough. Our friends in the street are sick and are dying. This investment will save our city money.

  16. Luke 9:57-62

    [57] As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

    [58] Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

    [59] He said to another man, “Follow me.”

    But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

    [60] Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

    [61] Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”

    [62] Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

    Jesus Christ comes before everything. Nothing in my past life gave me any lasting peace or satisfaction. I was always looking, searching; all my vain attempts to be noticed, appreciated, loved, or respected, ended in ashes. I’ve had it all – marriage, kids, house, car, & job security – & lost it all through, sin. My purpose in life is to proclaim the kingdom of God, without looking back on my past life. I am a sinner who deserves to go to hell but Jesus has delivered me from my inequities, through his death on the cross. His love lasts forever. I was lost but was found by Jesus. I love Jesus, so much. Oh! Merciful Jesus! Praise the Lord!!

    Peace Be With You

  17. Patrick,
    I certainly appreciate your passion. I’m curious as to your take on the post above. Is it a good idea or not in your opinion?

  18. Ariah,

    Your post emanated LOVE!! My opinion is not important – I am just a humble servant of Christ. Follow your heart!! The only person who matters is Jesus Christ. Put him on a pedestal, not me!!

    Peace Be With You

  19. Stephen, another reader wrote in with a verse that talks about family:

    1 Tim 5:7-8
    7Give the people these instructions, too, so that no one may be open to blame. 8If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

    My question would be what does “provide” here mean?

    Just for additional conversation here’s a little more context of those verses:
    3Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. 4But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. 5The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. 6But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7Give the people these instructions, too, so that no one may be open to blame. 8If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

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