Landlords and rental properties are a fact of life for many people today. With rising housing costs and economic uncertainty, renting has become more common. As Christians, how should we think about landlords and renting? What guidance does the Bible offer on this topic?
In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore the biblical principles and passages related to landlords and renting. We will look at what both the Old and New Testaments have to say about property ownership, caring for the vulnerable, rights and responsibilities, greed, generosity, and more.
- The Bible affirms private property rights but calls us to steward our possessions responsibly and generously
- God cares deeply for vulnerable and disadvantaged groups like the poor, foreigners, and widows – landlords should be mindful of their needs
- Owning property comes with moral duties and obligations according to biblical principles
- Love for neighbor should motivate how Christian landlords conduct their business
- The Bible condemns greed and exhorts the wealthy to avoid exploiting others
- Believers are called to cultivate generosity, integrity and ethical business practices
With wisdom and grace, landlords can manage their rental properties in a way that honors God and serves their tenants. While the Bible does not provide direct legal guidance for modern rental agreements, its principles still offer relevant insights for Christians today. Let’s explore what it teaches.
The Bible Affirms Private Property Rights
A foundational principle we find in the Bible is the right to own and manage private property. The eighth commandment given to Moses states, “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). This implies that individuals have a right to accumulate possessions and manage them as they see fit. After the Israelites had wandered in the wilderness for forty years, God affirmed land inheritance rights to each tribe and family so they could settle the Promised Land (Numbers 26:52-56).
In the New Testament, the early Christians voluntarily shared possessions and had “everything in common” (Acts 4:32). But this was a voluntary arrangement, not a mandate. Several passages mention individual homeowners opening their homes for church meetings (Romans 16:3-5, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 1:2). So the concept of private property ownership continued in the early church.
However, these property rights did not absolve Israel or the New Testament churches from moral obligations to care for the vulnerable and poor in their midst, as we will explore further.
God Deeply Cares for the Vulnerable
While legitimizing private property, the Bible also emphasizes God’s deep concern for vulnerable groups in society – the poor, widows, orphans, foreigners. God hears their cries and expects His people to defend and provide for them.
The Law of Moses gave specific protections such as leaving grain in the fields for the poor to glean (Leviticus 19:9-10). Every third year, tithes were set aside locally for Levites, foreigners, widows, and orphans (Deuteronomy 14:28-29). Isaiah rebukes the Israelites for depriving the poor of their rights (Isaiah 10:1-2). God reminds them that the land and everything in it still belongs to Him, so they must steward it justly (Leviticus 25:23).
In the New Testament, caring for the vulnerable remains a priority. Paul collects an offering for poor Christians in Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-27). Local churches are instructed to care for widows in need (1 Timothy 5:3-16). James warns the wealthy against withholding wages from laborers, saying their cries have reached the ears of God (James 5:1-6).
As stewards managing God’s possessions, landlords should take special care not to exploit vulnerable tenants. Providing safe, affordable, stable housing enables families to flourish and fulfill their God-given potential.
Owning Property Comes with Moral Duties
The Bible views property rights not as absolute, but as coming with moral duties and social responsibilities. The Jubilee laws in Leviticus 25 restricted the marketplace for land by prohibiting sale of property in perpetuity. Regular land redemption reminded the Israelites that God was the true owner of the land. The Prophets constantly condemned the wealthy elite for acquiring property through injustice and failing to share with the poor.
Ezekiel 16 and Amos 5:11 decry those who “build houses” but “not inhabit them” – implying excessive real estate development for profit without concern for community needs. Micah 2:2 condemns those who “covet fields and seize them” taking homes from families. Isaiah 5:8 declares, “Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left.” Owning property comes with a responsibility to steward resources fairly for the common good.
The New Testament echoes this communal ethic. Believers in Acts 2 and 4 willingly shared assets to meet needs. Paul instructed Timothy to “command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth” (1 Tim 6:17). James 5:5 accuses the wealthy of “living on earth in luxury and self-indulgence” amid inequality. So Christians should view housing not as a commodity, but as a way to build community and care for others.
Love for Neighbor Should Guide Christian Landlords
One clear principle that emerges from the Bible is that love for neighbor should supersede selfish gain. Leviticus 19:18 states God’s command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The Prophets railed against business owners who took advantage of others for gain. Amos accused the Israelites of “trampling on the poor” and “making the ephah small and the shekel great” (Amos 5:11-12) – rigging economic transactions for profit. Ezekiel 18:13 lists “not returning what was taken in pledge” as among the “detestable things” that lead to death.
In the New Testament, loving others summarizes God’s moral law (Matt 22:34-40, Gal 5:14). Paul instructs employers to give workers what is “right and fair” rather than exploit them (Col 4:1). So Christian landlords should set rental terms that are merciful and fair, not seeking to extract as much profit as the market will bear. They should minimize evictions, be reasonable on repairs, and avoid discriminating against tenants. This “golden rule” ethic should guide all business dealings (Matt 7:12).
The Bible Condemns Greed and Exploitation
Along with affirming private property, the Bible strongly condemns economic exploitation and greed. Isaiah denounces those who “add field to field” motivated by greed (Isaiah 5:8). Micah chastises corrupt merchants using “dishonest scales” to overcharge customers (Micah 6:11). James condemns the rich for hoarding wealth and failing to pay workers a fair wage (James 5:1-6).
Jesus told the parable of the rich man who tore down his barns to build even bigger ones to store his excess grain, rather than sharing with the poor (Luke 12:13-21). Christ commented, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). The love of money is equated with serving other gods (Matt 6:24).
So the Bible condemns those who exploit vulnerable groups for economic gain. Landlords should ensure their rental practices do not shade into greed, overcharging tenants who lack housing alternatives. Generous and ethical business practices should be prioritized over profit maximization.
Believers Are Called to Generosity and Integrity
Rather than greed, scripture calls believers to cultivate generosity in how they handle possessions and wealth. Christians are to excel “in the grace of giving” (2 Cor 8:7). Paul says whatever wealth we claim is ultimately God’s provision, entrusted to us to steward generously for doing good works (1 Tim 6:17-18). Hoarding wealth is condemned while distributing to the poor is praised (Matt 19:21, Luke 19:8-9).
Generosity should be coupled with integrity. Leviticus 19:35 says, “Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity.” Proverbs 11:1 states, “The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him.” Landlords should be honest and transparent in agreements, not seeking to deceive or obscure important details from renters. Integrity builds trust and honors God.
The path of wisdom is to avoid both greed and poverty by working hard, spending modestly, saving ethically, and giving generously (Prov 30:7-9). By pursuing righteousness, Christians bear witness to the God who showed ultimate generosity in Christ (2 Cor 9:6-15).
Principles for Landlords from Scripture
Based on our study so far, here are some key principles that emerge for Christian landlords:
- Remember tenants are made in God’s image; treat them with compassion and dignity
- Set rental rates that are reasonable, not maximizing personal profit
- Make repairs and maintain properties to serve tenants well
- Be flexible with grace periods if tenants experience job loss or crisis
- Avoid evicting responsibly unless truly necessary; work out payment plans when possible
- Don’t discriminate against tenants based on race, ethnicity, family status, disability, etc.
- Cultivate personal integrity and honesty in all dealings
- Stay accountable through trusted community that can warn against greed
- Balance just return on investment with generosity and sharing from abundance
Let’s explore a few more passages with specific insights for landlords.
Gleaning Laws – Leaving Provision for the Poor
A key practice in the Mosaic Law was “gleaning” – leaving leftover crops in the fields for the poor to gather. Leviticus 19:9-10 instructs:
“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner.”
Farmers and landowners were commanded to intentionally leave margin in their productive resources for the vulnerable. This prevented maximizing productivity for selfish gain. Within reasonable limits, God called landholders to forego profit to provide for the needy.
While modern landlords don’t own agricultural fields, the principle still applies. Leasing valuable land, homes or apartments at below-market rates, especially to lower income groups, allows more people to access decent housing. The gleaning ethic discourages extracting highest potential rents from tenants who lack alternatives. It challenges landlords to balance profit with compassion.
Restoring Pledged Property – Ezekiel 33:15
In Ezekiel 33:15, God says that if a righteous man “does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took in pledge for a loan” then he will live. This refers to the common practice of securing loans with personal property taken as collateral. Lenders were supposed to return the pledged item each day so the borrower could still use it before returning it as collateral again the next day (Deut 24:10-13).
But some lenders exploited the system by keeping pledged property longer than allowed, causing hardship for borrowers who depended on farming tools, millstones, garments, etc. for their livelihood. So God commanded lenders to show mercy in restoring pledged property promptly. This prevented them from profiting at the vulnerable borrower’s expense.
For landlords, the principle might apply to promptly returning security deposits, being flexible on late fees if communicated early, working with tenants to retrieve property left behind accidentally, and replacing appliances that break down through everyday use rather than charging tenants. Landlords should aim to “not oppress anyone” in the course of business.
Paying Laborers Promptly – Deuteronomy 24:14-15
Deuteronomy 24 instructs employers: “Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor…Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it.” Delaying compensation for low income laborers who were dependent on daily wages to feed their families was strictly forbidden.
Landlords should similarly aim to address issues for tenants dependent on rental housing promptly. Completing repairs quickly, paying interest on security deposits where required, and avoiding unnecessary fees mitigates the burden on financially strained tenants. Some landlords allow tenants to do basic maintenance (like yardwork) in exchange for rent reductions – creating flexibility around housing costs.
The Holy Spirit Dwells in Christian Renters
A final consideration for Christian landlords is to remember that tenants who follow Jesus carry His presence. Their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). The Holy Spirit was given to believers as a “deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” until final redemption (Eph 1:13-14). So mistreating followers of Jesus means abusing those indwelt by God’s Spirit.
This gives greater moral weight and sacred dignity to how Christian landlords interact with tenants who share their faith. Beyond just following the golden rule, they honor the sanctity of another person’s body indwelt by the living God. This should deeply motivate landlords to treat Christian tenants with exceptional care and consideration as brothers and sisters in Christ.
In summary, while affirming private property rights, the Bible calls owners to steward their possessions responsibly and generously. Landlords have particular duties to provide safe, affordable, stable housing for all people as image-bearers of God. But special provision should be made for vulnerable groups who lack other options.
Motivated by compassion, landlords must balance taking reasonable returns with a duty to provide decent housing as an outflow of loving God and neighbors. They should conduct business with integrity while avoiding greed or exploitation of tenants. Within a biblical framework, landlords can manage properties in ways that honor God and bless people in need of shelter.
What conclusions would you draw about biblical principles for landlords? I hope this overview of key scripture passages provides helpful guidance for Christians involved in rental housing today. By incorporating wisdom and ethics from the Bible, landlords can become a blessing to tenants in keeping with God’s values.