Joanne Smith hit the news on October 1. She realized a dream that
thousands of people have shared: She found the ultimate bargain. Some
might even call it a "steal", but everything Joanne did was legal.
What propelled Ms. Smith into the national spotlight was her winning
bid on a house in Saginaw, Michigan. She is herself a resident of
Chicago, and has no thought of moving to Saginaw. But when you can
pick up a house for a mere $1.75, why not do it?
You read that last statement right: Joanne Smith was the winning
bidder on Ebay for the house. What makes it even more incredible is
that hers was one of eight bids, meaning that some offered even less.
How many today are kicking themselves for not doubling her bid so they
could own some real estate in Michigan?
Note that I didn't say "prime" real estate. From the few pictures
I've seen of the house, it's nothing to get excited about. It appears
to be a simple frame house, perhaps fifty or sixty years old, and it
might have three bedrooms. There doesn't appear to have been any
maintenance performed on this house in awhile, which helps to explain
the low value Ebay viewers placed on the house.
To be completely accurate, the house is going to cost Ms. Smith more
than $1.75. She also had to agree to pay back taxes of $850, and the
cost of mowing the yard and hauling off the trash (probably another
$500, in my estimation). Even if she has the house razed and sells
nothing but the lot, she's bound to make a tidy little profit on her
I've become a bit jaded with Ebay. In past experiences I went to the
site, like everyone else, looking for amazing bargains. Most of the
time the items listed don't turn out to be bargains. For awhile one
thinks, "This will be a great deal!" But as more bidders enter the
action, the higher the price goes. At some point, pride enters the
picture and some bidders are more motivated (it seems) by the prospect
of winning than of getting a bargain. When all is said and done, they
may actually have paid more than if they had gone straight to a retail
No one can say this house in Saginaw was anything less than a bargain,
though. At $1.75, even with $850 tacked on for back taxes, the house
was seriously under-valued.
What are the former occupants (if they're still around) thinking?
"This is where our children were raised. Values were instilled,
laughter was heard and tears were shed under that roof." What value
can be placed on experiences like those? But that points more to the
home than to the house. A home is what gives any house its real
And that's where my protest is focused. The Associated Press, in
reporting this story, referred to Joanne Smith as purchasing a "home".
I disagree. True, Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Edition,
gives this as the first definition of "home": "one's place of
residence". In my mind, though, "house" refers to the building, while
"home" points to the people who live inside.
No doubt, this house in Saginaw, Michigan was vastly under-valued.
But the same can be said of many homes throughout our land.
The word "home" is used in God's word in both senses: A building, as
well as the family that resides inside. The real emphasis in the
Bible, however, is on the latter idea. God wants us to place the
proper value on "home", on right family relationships.
It all started with the first person on earth. After creating Adam,
God made this observation: "... It is not good that man should be
alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him" (Genesis 2:18).
Eve was the solution to that problem, and God brought her to Adam to
become his wife. Adam spoke prophetically upon meeting this new
creation: "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh ...
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his
wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:23,24).
Some scoff at the idea of Adam and Eve being historical figures.
Jesus didn't laugh; he pointed to them and quoted Adam's words as He
stated the ideal of marriage: "So then they are no longer two but one
flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate"
God's will is for more than just remaining married. He calls upon the
wedded couple to rise to this lofty standard: "Nevertheless let each
one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the
wife see that she respects her husband" (Ephesians 5:33). The proper
value of marriage within the home is one that sees the relationship as
loving, devoted, intimate and caring.
From such sacred unions come children, and God has instructions for
those relationships as well. Children are taught to honor their
parents and to obey them "in the Lord" (Ephesians 6:1-3), while
fathers are instructed to not "provoke your children to wrath, but
bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians
6:4). Homes patterned after God's will produce stable, loving
relationships. What price can be placed on blessings like that?
We don't have to document, though, how homes are being under-valued.
Because we don't realize the precious nature of what we have, we
"sell" our families for trinkets. Let me suggest two or three
First, there are many who neglect their family relationships because
they are in hot pursuit of career ambitions and a secure financial
future. I've told many that "Mary Poppins" ranks as one of my
favorite movies because it highlights this very lesson. The father
was climbing the ladder of success at his bank, but was losing his
wife and children at the same time. He under-valued his family.
Second, others forfeit their family relationships because they imagine
an affair will bring excitement and pleasure that can't (they think)
be found at home. When their unfaithfulness is uncovered, all trust
is destroyed and family relationships are pounded. If only they had
used more reason before allowing physical passions to lead them down
that path! They under-value their families.
Third, some feel that the grass is greener on the other side of the
fence and willingly walk away from established relationships. They
forget the Lord's teachings regarding marriage and responsibility
toward spouses and children. One family is exchanged for another.
The old "home" is esteemed as not being of much worth. They actually
pay (alimony, court and lawyer fees) to be rid of the old.
Houses are bound to fall into conditions of disrepair without proper
maintenance. It's startling to see how quickly a vacant house
deteriorates. The same principle applies to homes, too. When we
don't apply the needed maintenance, and when we fail to heed the
instructions of God regarding homes, things will soon fall apart. It
doesn't have to be that way. With God's help, we can realize the
right value of homes. And home will be where our hearts are.