Setting a Solid Foundation

HFH_ICON_BLOCKS_BlueSetting a Solid Foundation: Our Christian Identity

Habitat for Humanity is a Christian ecumenical non-profit ministry founded in 1976. Each Habitat organizations around the world signs a covenant agreement acknowledging that one of Habitat’s purposes is to build modest but affordable houses in order to demonstrate the love and teachings of Jesus Christ. The first part of this document examines four basic concepts that help shape Habitat as a Christian ministry:

  • Faith in action
  • Kingdom building
  • The economics of Jesus
  • A Spirit of Unity

Faith in Action

Habitat for Humanity builds homes in response to God’s love. Filled with God’s love and mercy, we seek to share God’s love with others in practical and concrete ways. We intentionally serve by partnering with local communities and empowering people to love and serve as neighbors, and hence transform individuals, families, neighborhoods and communities. The Bible teaches us that love must be sincere and practical. “We know love by this, that He laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help? (1 John 3:16-18).”

We find the same message in another Biblical passage in James 2:14-26 mandating we live out our faith. Our loving service is our response to God’s love and compassion for the world. 

Kingdom Building

Following the example of Jesus by selflessly and lovingly serving one another, we further the kingdom of God by obeying and fulfilling God’s will on earth. By caring and serving all people, especially the poor, we actively participate in fulfilling God’s will and build the kingdom and influence of God in the world.

It is unacceptable for families to struggle amid the hardships that poverty imposes; it just won’t do for people to live in dignity under leaky roofs or amid rodent infestation or with no water or sanitary facilities.Habitat provides numerous opportunities and partnerships with diverse people, communities and agencies to take action when God has stirred within them a desire to respond to need in the world. 

The Economics of Jesus

Habitat for Humanity uses the term “the economics of Jesus” to describe attitudes about money and resources that Jesus initiated. The economics of Jesus teaches us to incorporate scriptural wisdom to guide our work.

1. God blesses what we offer and turns it into the miraculous.

Just as Jesus fed thousands with the loaves and fish (John 6:1-14), God blesses our limited resources and meets the enormous need when we step out in faith and serve with love and compassion. It is unacceptable for families to struggle amid the hardships that poverty imposes; it just won’t do for people to live in dignity under leaky roofs or amid rodent infestation or with no water or sanitary facilities.

The late Tom Hall, a former associate director of HFHI, reflected on God’s miraculous acts. “Rather than complaining about the meagerness of the resources, Jesus took what was at hand, thanked God for it and put it to work. Wonder of wonders, there was more than enough! I do not know just what happened on that Galilean hillside. I do know that when we take what is given and go to work with it to do God’s will, the job can be accomplished (Hall, Tom “The Economics of Jesus,” Kingdom Building: Essays from the Grassroots of Habitat, Habitat for Humanity, Inc.,1984., p. 49)”.

2. God expects us to share our resources.

Acts 20:35 reminds us of Jesus’ words-it is more blessed to give than to receive. The early Christian community modeled this lifestyle when members sold their possessions and used the proceeds to care for one another. The key is to create a balance. God does not mean for us to go hungry or to do without adequate clothing and shelter. John the Baptist clearly explained how we bridge the gap between poverty and affluence: “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise” (Luke 3:11).

We have to examine our needs and our wants and rethink what we do with our treasure. In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus offered a specific explanation: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

3. Our work is a response to God’s love.

Habitat for Humanity homes are built on the concept of partnership. Just as Jesus told Peter to “feed my sheep” as a way for Peter to show his love for Jesus, we build and repair houses as a response to Christ’s love with no expectation of financial gain. Habitat’s mission is to provide simple, decent, affordable homes  with affordable payments that do not burden the poor.

4. Grace and love abound for all, equally.

In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus tells the parable of the landowner who paid laborers in his field the same wage no matter how many hours they worked during the day. Jesus used this opportunity to proclaim that no person is of greater value than another. God’s grace is a gift that is not deserved but is given freely to all.

A Spirit of Unity

Many places in the book of Ephesians, the writer speaks of oneness and unity. Referring to Jesus as the cornerstone in Ephesians 2:20, the writer says, “In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God” (2:21-22).

This ability to bring together a wide diversity of people, churches and other organizations to build houses and establish viable communities is one of the great benefits of Habitat for Humanity. When we respond to God’s call to help our neighbors, it is amazing how easily we forget our differences. As we focus on working together to build a house, we realize that the things that make us the same become more important than the things that keep us apart. Emphasizing a spirit of unity builds community and glorifies God.