OF TENTS AND HOUSES

tent

‘Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands’ (2Corinthians 5:1)

This verse and the passage that follows describes the transience of human life and the permanent eternal dwelling that awaits a Christian.

A tent is never permanent, whereas a house is. When you know that you are going to be in a place temporarily, a tent does the job for you and also allows you to easily unpack and move on. Biblical authors were familiar with tents and the nomadic lifestyle that came along with it. You don’t pack a tent with household goods. Only the bare minimum that was required for living would find place in a tent. You don’t build or plant anything that would be difficult to take with you when you leave. You certainly don’t invest in the land where you have built a tent because your investments will turn sour when you leave. In the mind of a nomadic tent dweller is the predominant thought that an inevitable movement lay ahead. And so while he may use the opportunity to raise his flock or live off the land, he would not entertain notions of treasuring anything in the land that he would not be able to take with him.

In describing our lives here on earth as a tent, Paul puts us in the right frame of thinking with respect to our lives and what is truly valuable and relevant. Man rarely thinks about the transience of life. We don’t stop to think that life will be interrupted by death. When businessmen in their 80’s don’t want to stop making huge profits at any cost, when old politicians haggle for power even though they have not many years left and when people in the middle of sickness and staring at death, still muster up enough strength to curse God, what is evident is a glaring lack of a recognition of the transience of life. What happens to all that we possess and all that we treasure when we die? When the tent is left behind at the end of life, all that we strived hard for and treasured has to be left behind for someone else to profit from.

To contrast our eternal dwelling, Paul describes it as a house built by God’s hands. This house is permanent and everything that we work hard to achieve to fill this house will come to fruition. Imagine a nomadic traveler who accumulates treasures for his future house, which he hopes to inhabit at the end of his nomadic life. These treasures are of no value to a tent life and despised by fellow tent-dwellers who mock his choices. Accumulating for the future house comes at the expense of living a comfortable tent life. Yet when he does reach the house, he has the last laugh, for he would be far richer, better prepared and more satisfied than his fellow travelers who wasted much of their efforts for their tent life.

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